Popular Tales from the Norse
Sir George Webbe Dasent
Part 6 out of 10
given out in every church in the country, but no one can tell me
anything about her.'
'Yes, I'll mind and do that', said the lad; and in that palace too he
lived on the best, and when he went away he got both money and food.
So when evening drew on again he came at last to another king's
palace. Here who should come out into the kitchen but the Queen, and
she asked him whence he came, and on what errand he was bound?
'I'm going to the Dragon of Deepferry to pluck three feathers out of
his tail', said the lad.
'Then you'd better take a good piece of luck with you', said the
Queen, 'for I never heard of any one that came back from him. But if
you find him, just be good enough to ask him from me where I shall
find my gold keys which I have lost.'
'Yes! I'll be sure to ask him', said the lad.
Well! when he left the palace he came to a great broad river; and
while he stood there and wondered whether he should cross it, or go
down along the bank, an old hunchbacked man came up, and asked
whither he was going?
'Oh, I'm going to the Dragon of Deepferry, if I could only find any
one to tell where I can find him.'
'I can tell you that', said the man; 'for here I go backwards and
forwards, and carry those over who are going to see him. He lives
just across, and when you climb the hill you'll see his castle; but
mind, if you come to talk with him, to ask him from me how long I'm
to stop here and carry folk over.'
'I'll be sure to ask him', said the lad.
So the man took him on his back and carried him over the river; and
when he climbed the hill, he saw the castle, and went in.
He found there a Princess who lived with the Dragon all alone; and
'But, dear friend, how can Christian folk dare to come hither? None
have been here since I came, and you'd best be off as fast as you
can; for as soon as the Dragon comes home, he'll smell you out, and
gobble you up in a trice, and that'll make me so unhappy.'
'Nay! nay!' said the lad; 'I can't go before I've got three feathers
out of his tail.'
'You'll never get them', said, the Princess; 'you'd best be off.'
But the lad wouldn't go; he would wait for the Dragon, and get the
feathers, and an answer to all his questions.
'Well, since you're so steadfast I'll see what I can do to help you',
said the Princess; 'just try to lift that sword that hangs on the
No; the lad could not even stir it.
'I thought so', said the Princess; 'but just take a drink out of this
So when the lad had sat a while, he was to try again; and then he
could just stir it.
'Well! you must take another drink', said the Princess, 'and then you
may as well tell me your errand hither.'
So he took another drink, and then he told her how one king had
begged him to ask the Dragon, how it was he couldn't get clean water
in his well?--how another had bidden him ask, what had become of his
daughter, who had been lost many years since?--and how a queen had
begged him to ask the Dragon what had become of her gold keys?--and,
last of all, how the ferryman had begged him to ask the Dragon, how
long he was to stop there and carry folk over?? When he had done his
story, and took hold of the sword, he could lift it; and when he had
taken another drink, he could brandish it.
'Now', said the Princess, 'if you don't want the Dragon to make an
end of you, you'd best creep under the bed, for night is drawing on,
and he'll soon be home, and then you must lie as still as you can,
lest he should find you out. And when we have gone to bed, I'll ask
him, but you must keep your ears open, and snap up all that he says;
and under the bed you must lie till all is still, and the Dragon
falls asleep; then creep out softly and seize the sword, and as soon
as he rises, look out to hew off his head at one stroke, and at the
same time pluck out the three feathers, for else he'll tear them out
himself, that no one may get any good by them.'
So the lad crept under the bed, and the Dragon came home.
'What a smell of Christian flesh', said the Dragon.
'Oh, yes', said the Princess, 'a raven came flying with a man's bone
in his bill, and perched on the roof. No doubt it's that you smell.'
'So it is, I daresay', said the Dragon.
So the Princess served supper; and after they had eaten, they went to
bed. But after they had lain a while, the Princess began to toss
about, and all at once she started up and said:
'What's the matter?' said the Dragon.
'Oh', said the Princess, 'I can't rest at all, and I've had such a
'What did you dream about? Let's hear?' said the Dragon.
'I thought a king came here, and asked you what he must do to get
clear water in his well.'
'Oh', said the Dragon, 'he might just as well have found that out for
himself. If he dug the well out, and took out the old rotten stump
which lies at the bottom, he'd get clean water, fast enough. But be
still now, and don't dream any more.'
When the Princess had lain a while, she began to toss about, and at
last she started up with her
'What's the matter now?' said the Dragon.
'Oh! I can't get any rest at all, and I've had such a strange dream',
said the Princess.
'Why, you seem full of dreams to-night', said the Dragon what was
your dream now?'
'I thought a king came here, and asked you what had become of his
daughter who had been lost many years since', said the Princess.
'Why, you are she', said the Dragon; 'but he'll never set eyes on you
again. But now, do pray be still, and let me get some rest, and don't
let's have any more dreams, else I'll break your ribs.'
Well, the Princess hadn't lain much longer before she began to toss
about again. At last she started up with her
'What! Are you at it again?' said the Dragon. 'What's the matter
now?' for he was wild and sleep-surly, so that he was ready to fly to
'Oh, don't be angry', said the Princess; 'but I've had such a strange
'The deuce take your dreams', roared the Dragon; 'what did you dream
I thought a queen came here, who asked you to tell her where she
would find her gold keys, which she has lost.'
'Oh', said the Dragon, 'she'll find them soon enough if she looks
among the bushes where she lay that time she wots of. But do now let
me have no more dreams, but sleep in peace.'
So they slept a while; but then the Princess was just as restless as
ever, and at last she screamed out:
'You'll never behave till I break your neck', said the Dragon, who
was now so wroth that sparks of fire flew out of his eyes. 'What's
the matter now?'
'Oh, don't be so angry', said the Princess; 'I can't bear that; but
I've had such a strange dream.'
'Bless me!' said the Dragon, 'if I ever heard the like of these
dreams--there's no end to them. And pray, what did you dream now?'
'I thought the ferryman down at the ferry came and asked how long he
was to stop there and carry folk over', said the Princess.
'The dull fool!' said the Dragon; 'he'd soon be free, if he chose.
When any one comes who wants to go across, he has only to take and
throw him into the river, and say, "Now, carry folk over yourself
till someone sets you free." But now, pray let's have an end of these
dreams, else I'll lead you a pretty dance.'
So the Princess let him sleep on. But as soon as all was still, and
the miller's lad heard that the Dragon snored, he crept out. Before
it was light the Dragon rose; but he had scarce set both his feet on
the floor before the lad cut off his head, and plucked three feathers
out of his tail. Then came great joy, and both the lad and the
Princess took as much gold, and silver, and money, and precious
things as they could carry; and when they came down to the ford, they
so puzzled the ferryman with all they had to tell, that he quite
forgot to ask what the Dragon had said about him till they had got
'Halloa, you sir', he said, as they were going off, 'did you ask the
Dragon what I begged you to ask?'
'Yes I did', said the lad, 'and he said, "When any one comes and
wants to go over, you must throw him into the midst of the river, and
say, 'Now, carry folk over yourself till some one comes to set you
free,'" and then you'll be free.'
'Ah, bad luck to you', said the ferryman; 'had you told me that
before, you might have set me free yourself.'
So, when they got to the first palace, the Queen asked if he had
spoken to the Dragon about her gold keys? 'Yes', said the lad, and
whispered in the Queen's ear, 'he said you must look among the bushes
where you lay the day you wot of.'
'Hush! hush! Don't say a word', said the Queen, and gave the lad a
When they came to the second palace, the King asked if he had spoken
to the Dragon of what he begged him?
'Yes', said the lad, 'I did; and see, here is your daughter.'
At that the King was so glad, he would gladly have given the Princess
to the miller's lad to wife, and half the kingdom beside; but as he
was married already, he gave him two hundred dollars, and coaches and
horses, and as much gold and silver as he could carry away.
When he came to the third King's palace, out came the King and asked
if he had asked the Dragon of what he begged him?
'Yes', said the lad, 'and he said you must dig out the well, and take
out the rotten old stump which lies at the bottom, and then you'll
get plenty of clear water.'
Then the King gave him three hundred dollars, and he set out home;
but he was so loaded with gold and silver, and so grandly clothed,
that it gleamed and glistened from him, and he was now far richer
than Peter the Pedlar.
When Peter got the feathers he hadn't a word more to say against the
wedding; but when he saw all that wealth, he asked if there was much
still left at the Dragon's castle.
'Yes, I should think so', said the lad; 'there was much more than I
could carry with me--so much, that you might load many horses with
it; and if you choose to go, you may be sure there'll be enough for
So his son-in-law told him the way so clearly, that he hadn't to ask
it of any one.
'But the horses', said the lad 'you'd best leave this side the river;
for the old ferryman, he'll carry you over safe enough.'
So Peter set off, and took with him great store of food and many
horses; but these he left behind him on the river's brink, as the lad
had said. And the old ferryman took him upon his back; but when they
had come a bit out into the stream, he cast him into the midst of the
river, and said,
'Now you may go backwards and forwards here, and carry folk over till
you are set free.'
And unless some one has set him free, there goes Rich Peter the
Pedlar backwards and forwards, and carries folk across this very day.
In those days when our Lord and St Peter wandered upon earth, they
came once to an old wife's house, who sat baking. Her name was
Gertrude, and she had a red mutch on her head. They had walked a long
way, and were both hungry, and our Lord begged hard for a bannock to
stay their hunger. Yes, they should have it. So she took a little
tiny piece of dough and rolled it out, but as she rolled it, it grew
and grew till it covered the whole griddle.
Nay, that was too big; they couldn't have that. So she took a tinier
bit still; but when that was rolled out, it covered the whole griddle
just the same, and that bannock was too big, she said; they couldn't
have that either.
The third time she took a still tinier bit--so tiny you could scarce
see it; but it was the same story over again--the bannock was too
'Well', said Gertrude, 'I can't give you anything; you must just go
without, for all these bannocks are too big.'
Then our Lord waxed wroth, and said:
'Since you loved me so little as to grudge me a morsel of food, you
shall have this punishment: you shall become a bird, and seek your
food between bark and bole; and never get a drop to drink save when
He had scarce said the last word before she was turned into a great
black woodpecker, or Gertrude's bird, and flew from her kneading-
trough right up the chimney; and till this very day you may see her
flying about, with her red mutch on her head, and her body all black,
because of the soot in the chimney; and so she hacks and taps away at
the trees for her food, and whistles when rain is coming, for she is
ever athirst, and then she looks for a drop to cool her tongue.
BOOTS AND THE TROLL
Once on a time there was a poor man who had three sons. When he died,
the two elder set off into the world to try their luck, but the
youngest they wouldn't have with them at any price.
'As for you', they said, 'you're fit for nothing but to sit and poke
about in the ashes.'
So the two went off and got places at a palace--the one under the
coachman, and the other under the gardener. But Boots, he set off
too, and took with him a great kneading-trough, which was the only
thing his parents left behind them, but which the other two would not
bother themselves with. It was heavy to carry, but he did not like to
leave it behind, and so, after he had trudged a bit, he too came to
the palace, and asked for a place. So they told him they did not want
him, but he begged so prettily that at last he got leave to be in the
kitchen, and carry in wood and water for the kitchen maid. He was
quick and ready, and in a little while every one liked him; but the
two others were dull, and so they got more kicks than halfpence, and
grew quite envious of Boots, when they saw how much better he got on.
Just opposite the palace, across a lake, lived a Troll, who had seven
silver ducks which swam on the lake, so that they could be seen from
the palace. These the king had often longed for; and so the two elder
brothers told the coachman:
'If our brother only chose, he has said he could easily get the king
those seven silver ducks.'
You may fancy it wasn't long before the coachman told this to the
king; and the king called Boots before him, and said:
'Your brothers say you can get me the silver ducks; so now go and
'I'm sure I never thought or said anything of the kind,' said the
'You did say so, and you shall fetch them', said the king, who would
hold his own.
'Well! well!' said the lad; 'needs must, I suppose; but give me a
bushel of rye, and a bushel of wheat, and I'll try what I can do.'
So he got the rye and the wheat, and put them into the kneading-
trough he had brought with him from home, got in, and rowed across
the lake. When he reached the other side he began to walk along the
shore, and to sprinkle and strew the grain, and at last he coaxed the
ducks into his kneading-trough, and rowed back as fast as ever he
When he got half over, the Troll came out of his house, and set eyes
'HALLOA!' roared out the Troll; 'is it you that has gone off with my
seven silver ducks.'
'AYE! AYE!' said the lad.
'Shall you be back soon?' asked the Troll.
'Very likely', said the lad.
So when he got back to the king, with the seven silver ducks, he was
more liked than ever, and even the king was pleased to say, 'Well
done!' But at this his brothers grew more and more spiteful and
envious; and so they went and told the coachman that their brother
had said, if he chose, he was man enough to get the king the Troll's
bed-quilt, which had a gold patch and a silver patch, and a silver
patch and a gold patch; and this time, too, the coachman was not slow
in telling all this to the king. So the king said to the lad, how his
brothers had said he was good to steal the Troll's bed-quilt, with
gold and silver patches; so now he must go and do it, or lose his
Boots answered, he had never thought or said any such thing; but when
he found there was no help for it, he begged for three days to think
over the matter.
So when the three days were gone, he rowed over in his kneading-
trough, and went spying about. At last he saw those in the Troll's
cave come out and hang the quilt out to air, and as soon as ever they
had gone back into the face of the rock, Boots pulled the quilt down,
and rowed away with it as fast as he could.
And when he was half across, out came the Troll and set eyes on him,
and roared out:
'HALLOA! Is it you who took my seven silver ducks?'
'AYE! AYE!' said the lad.
'And now, have you taken my bed-quilt, with silver patches and gold
patches, and gold patches and silver patches?'
'Aye! aye!' said the lad.
'Shall you come back again?'
'Very likely', said the lad.
But when he got back with the gold and silver patchwork quilt, every
one was fonder of him than ever, and he was made the king's body-
At this, the other two were still more vexed, and, to be revenged,
they went and told the coachman:
'Now, our brother has said, he is man enough to get the king the gold
harp which the Troll has, and that harp is of such a kind, that all
who listen when it is played grow glad, however sad they may be.'
Yes! the coachman went and told the king, and he said to the lad:
'If you have said this, you shall do it. If you do it, you shall have
the Princess and half the kingdom. If you don't, you shall lose your
'I'm sure I never thought or said anything of the kind', said the
lad; 'but if there's no help for it, I may as well try; but I must
have six days to think about it.'
Yes! he might have six days, but when they were over, he must set
Then he took a tenpenny nail, a birch-pin, and a waxen taper-end in
his pocket, and rowed across, and walked up and down before the
Troll's cave, looking stealthily about him. So when the Troll came
out, he saw him at once.
'HO, HO!' roared the Troll; 'is it you who took my seven silver
'AYE! AYE!' said the lad.
'And it is you who took my bed-quilt, with the gold and silver
patches?' asked the Troll.
'Aye! aye!' said the lad.
So the Troll caught hold of him at once, and took him off into the
cave in the face of the rock.
'Now, daughter dear', said the Troll, 'I've caught the fellow who
stole the silver ducks and my bed-quilt, with gold and silver
patches; put him into the fattening coop, and when he's fat, we'll
kill him, and make a feast for our friends.'
She was willing enough, and put him at once into the fattening coop,
and there he stayed eight days, fed on the best, both in meat and
drink, and as much as he could cram. So, when the eight days were
over, the Troll said to his daughter to go down and cut him in his
little finger, that they might see if he were fat. Down she came to
'Out with your little finger!' she said.
But Boots stuck out his tenpenny nail, and she cut at it.
'Nay! nay! he's as hard as iron still', said the Troll's daughter,
when she got back to her father; 'we can't take him yet.'
After another eight days the same thing happened, and this time Boots
stuck out his birchen pin.
'Well, he's a little better', she said, when she got back to the
Troll; 'but still he'll be as hard as wood to chew.'
But when another eight days were gone, the Troll told his daughter to
go down and see if he wasn't fat now.
'Out with your little finger', said the Troll's daughter, when she
reached the coop, and this time Boots stuck out the taper end.
'Now he'll do nicely', she said.
'Will he?' said the Troll. 'Well, then, I'll just set off and ask the
guests; meantime you must kill him, and roast half and boil half.'
So when the Troll had been gone a little while, the daughter began to
sharpen a great long knife.
'Is that what you're going to kill me with?' asked the lad.
'Yes it is,' said she.
'But it isn't sharp', said the lad. 'Just let me sharpen it for you,
and then you'll find it easier work to kill me.'
So she let him have the knife, and he began to rub and sharpen it on
'Just let me try it on one of your hair plaits; I think it's about
So he got leave to do that; but at the same time that he grasped the
plait of hair, he pulled back her head, and at one gash, cut off the
Troll's daughter's head; and half of her he roasted and half of her
he boiled, and served it all up.
After that he dressed himself in her clothes, and sat away in the
So when the Troll came home with his guests, he called out to his
daughter--for he thought all the time it was his daughter--to come
and take a snack.
'No, thank you', said the lad, 'I don't care for food, I'm so sad and
'Oh!' said the Troll, 'if that's all, you know the cure; take the
harp, and play a tune on it.'
'Yes!' said the lad; 'but where has it got to; I can't find it.'
'Why, you know well enough', said the Troll; 'you used it last; where
should it be but over the door yonder?
The lad did not wait to be told twice; he took down the harp, and
went in and out playing tunes; but, all at once he shoved off the
kneading-trough, jumped into it, and rowed off, so that the foam flew
around the trough.
After a while the Troll thought his daughter was a long while gone,
and went out to see what ailed her; and then he saw the lad in the
trough, far, far out on the lake.
'HALLOA! Is it you', he roared, 'that took my seven silver ducks?'
'AYE, AYE!' said the lad.
'Is it you that took my bed-quilt, with the gold and silver patches.'
'Yes!' said the lad.
'And now you have taken off my gold harp?' screamed the Troll.
'Yes!' said the lad; 'I've got it, sure enough.'
'And haven't I eaten you up after all, then?'
'No, no! 'twas your own daughter you ate', answered the lad.
But when the Troll heard that, he was so sorry, he burst; and then
Boots rowed back, and took a whole heap of gold and silver with him,
as much as the trough could carry. And so, when he came to the palace
with the gold harp, he got the Princess and half the kingdom, as the
king had promised him; and, as for his brothers, he treated them
well, for he thought they had only wished his good when they said
what they had said.
Once on a time there was a widower, who had a housekeeper 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 wits'
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 Deil
himself. So, when Grizzel woke and saw how ugly she was, she didn't
'Can this be me now?' said Grizzel. 'Nay, nay! it can never be me. So
ugly have I never been; it's surely the Deil 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?'
'Aye, aye, 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 Deil, 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 Evil One 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
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
'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, its 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
'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 Deil 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 Deil about his business.
Now the next night the thieves said they must go and steal a fat
goose, and Grizzel was to shew 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
'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 all his house, small and great, for
they thought it was the Deil, 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 oat-cake. The thieves begged her to be still, and just throw out
something to eat, and to bear in mind how badly they had fated for
two nights. But Grizzel stuck to her own, that she did.
'Will you have fresh meat, or salt, or sausages, or oat-cake? Just
look, what a lovely oat-cake', she bawled out enough to split your
head. 'You may have what you please, for here's plenty to choose
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 Deil
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 Deil 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 which 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 Deil. So away he ran home as fast as he
could, and said the Deil 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 Deil.
'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 was downstairs, and wished to have a word with
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
So the goodman told his errand; how the Deil 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
'Nay, nay, father!' said the man; 'the Deil 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 Deil 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 dare say he's lying there still.
THE LAD WHO WENT TO THE NORTH WIND
Once on a time there was an old widow who had one son; and as she was
poorly and weak, her son had to go up into the safe to fetch meal for
cooking; but when he got outside the safe, and was just going down
the steps, there came the North Wind, puffing and blowing, caught up
the meal, and so away with it through the air. Then the lad went back
into the safe for more; but when he came out again on the steps, if
the North Wind didn't come again and carry off the meal with a puff;
and, more than that, he did so the third time. At this the lad got
very angry; and as he thought it hard that the North Wind should
behave so, he thought he'd just look him up, and ask him to give up
So off he went, but the way was long, and he walked and walked; but
at last he came to the North Wind's house.
'Good day!' said the lad, 'and thank you for coming to see us
'GOOD DAY!' answered the North Wind, for his voice was loud and
gruff, 'AND THANKS FOR COMING TO SEE ME. WHAT DO YOU WANT?'
'Oh!' answered the lad, 'I only wished to ask you to be so good as to
let me have back that meal you took from me on the safe steps, for we
haven't much to live on; and if you're to go on snapping up the
morsel we have, there'll be nothing for it but to starve.'
'I haven't got your meal', said the North Wind; 'but if you are in
such need, I'll give you a cloth which will get you everything you
want, if you only say, 'Cloth, spread yourself, and serve up all kind
of good dishes!'
With this the lad was well content. But, as the way was so long he
couldn't get home in one day, so he turned into an inn on the way;
and when they were going to sit down to supper he laid the cloth on a
table which stood in the corner, and said,
'Cloth, spread yourself, and serve up all kinds of good dishes.'
He had scarce said so before the cloth did as it was bid; and all who
stood by thought it a fine thing, but most of all the landlady. So,
when all were fast asleep at dead of night, she took the lad's cloth,
and put another in its stead, just like the one he had got from the
North Wind, but which couldn't so much as serve up a bit of dry
So, when the lad woke, he took his cloth and went off with it, and
that day he got home to his mother.
'Now', said he, 'I've been to the North Wind's house, and a good
fellow he is, for he gave me this cloth, and when I only say to it,
"Cloth, spread yourself, and serve up all kind of good dishes", I get
any sort of food I please.'
'All very true, I daresay,' said his mother; 'but seeing is
believing, and I shan't believe it till I see it.'
So the lad made haste, drew out a table, laid the cloth on it, and
'Cloth, spread yourself, and serve up all kind of good dishes.'
But never a bit of dry bread did the cloth serve up.
'Well', said the lad, 'there's no help for it but to go to the North
Wind again'; and away he went.
So he came to where the North Wind lived late in the afternoon.
'Good evening!' said the lad.
'Good evening!' said the North Wind.
'I want my rights for that meal of ours which you took', said the
lad; 'for, as for that cloth I got, it isn't worth a penny.'
'I've got no meal', said the North Wind; 'but yonder you have a ram
which coins nothing but golden ducats as soon as you say to it:
"Rain, ram! make money!"
So the lad thought this a fine thing; but as it was too far to get
home that day, he turned in for the night to the same inn where he
had slept before.
Before he called for anything, he tried the truth of what the North
Wind had said of the ram, and found it all right; but, when the
landlord saw that, he thought it was a famous ram, and, when the lad
had fallen asleep, he took another which couldn't coin gold ducats,
and changed the two.
Next morning off went the lad; and when he got home to his mother, he
'After all, the North Wind is a jolly fellow; for now he has given me
a ram which can coin golden ducats if I only say "Ram, ram! make
'All very true, I daresay', said his mother; 'but I shan't believe
any such stuff until I see the ducats made.'
'Ram, ram! make money!' said the lad; but if the Ram made anything,
it wasn't money.
So the lad went back again to the North Wind, and blew him up, and
said the ram was worth nothing, and he must have his rights for the
'Well!' said the North Wind; 'I've nothing else to give you but that
old stick in the corner yonder; but it's a stick of that kind that if
'"Stick, stick! lay on!" it lays on till you say: "Stick, stick! now
So, as the way was long, the lad turned in this night too to the
landlord; but as he could pretty well guess how things stood as to
the cloth and the ram, he lay down at once on the bench and began to
snore, as if he were asleep.
Now the landlord, who easily saw that the stick must be worth
something, hunted up one which was like it, and when he heard the lad
snore, was going to change the two; but, just as the landlord was
about to take it, the lad bawled out: 'Stick, stick! lay on!'
So the stick began to beat the landlord, till he jumped over chairs,
and tables, and benches, and yelled and roared:
'Oh my! oh my! bid the stick be still, else it will beat me to death,
and you shall have back both your cloth and our ram.'
When the lad thought the landlord had got enough, he said:
'Stick, stick! now stop!'
Then he took the cloth and put it into his pocket, and went home with
his stick in his hand, leading the ram by a cord round its horns; and
so he got his rights for the meal he had lost.
THE MASTER THIEF
Once upon a time there was a poor cottager who had three sons. He had
nothing to leave them when he died, and no money with which to put
them to any trade, so that he did not know what to make of them. At
last he said he would give them leave to take to anything each liked
best, and to go whithersoever they pleased, and he would go with them
a bit of the way; and so he did. He went with them till they came to
a place where three roads met, and there each of them chose a road,
and their father bade them good-bye, and went back home. I have never
heard tell what became of the two elder; but as for the youngest, he
went both far and long, as you shall hear.
So it fell out one night as he was going through a great wood that
such bad weather overtook him. It blew, and sleeted, and drove so
that he could scarce keep his eyes open; and in a trice, before he
knew how it was, he got bewildered, and could not find either road or
path. But as he went on and on, at last he saw a glimmering of light
far far off in the wood. So he thought he would try and get to the
light; and after a time he did reach it. There it was in a large
house, and the fire was blazing so brightly inside, that he could
tell the folk had not yet gone to bed; so he went in and saw an old
dame bustling about and minding the house.
'Good evening!' said the youth.
'Good evening!' said the old dame.
'Hutetu! it's such foul weather out of doors to-night', said he.
'So it is', said she.
'Can I get leave to have a bed and shelter here to-night?' asked the
'You'll get no good by sleeping here', said the old dame; 'for if the
folk come home and find you here, they'll kill both me and you.'
'What sort of folk, then, are they who live here?' asked the youth.
'Oh, robbers! And a bad lot of them too', said the old dame. 'They
stole me away when I was little, and have kept me as their
housekeeper ever since.'
'Well, for all that, I think I'll just go to bed', said the youth.
'Come what may, I'll not stir out at night in such weather.'
'Very well', said the old dame; 'but if you stay, it will be the
worse for you.'
With that the youth got into a bed which stood there, but he dared
not go to sleep, and very soon after in came the robbers; so the old
dame told them how a stranger fellow had come in whom she had not
been able to get out of the house again.
'Did you see if he had any money?' said the robbers.
'Such a one as he money!' said the old dame, 'the tramper! Why, if he
had clothes to his back, it was as much as he had.'
Then the robbers began to talk among themselves what they should do
with him; if they should kill him outright, or what else they should
do. Meantime the youth got up and began to talk to them, and to ask
if they didn't want a servant, for it might be that he would be glad
to enter their service.
'Oh', said they, 'if you have a mind to follow the trade that we
follow, you can very well get a place here.'
'It's all one to me what trade I follow', said the youth; 'for when I
left home, father gave me leave to take to any trade I chose.'
'Well, have you a mind to steal?' asked the robbers.
'I don't care', said the youth, for he thought it would not take long
to learn that trade.
Now there lived a man a little way off who had three oxen. One of
these he was to take to the town to sell, and the robbers had heard
what he was going to do, so they said to the youth, if he were good
to steal the ox from the man by the way without his knowing it, and
without doing him any harm, they would give him leave to be their
Well! the youth set off, and took with him a pretty shoe, with a
silver buckle on it, which lay about the house; and he put the shoe
in the road along which the man was going with his ox; and when he
had done that, he went into the wood and hid himself under a bush. So
when the man came by he saw the shoe at once.
'That's a nice shoe', said he. 'If I only had the fellow to it, I'd
take it home with me, and perhaps I'd put my old dame in a good
humour for once.' For you must know he had an old wife, so cross and
snappish, it was not long between each time that she boxed his ears.
But then he bethought him that he could do nothing with the odd shoe
unless he had the fellow to it; so he went on his way and let the
shoe lie on the road.
Then the youth took up the shoe, and made all the haste he could to
get before the man by a short cut through the wood, and laid it down
before him in the road again. When the man came along with his ox, he
got quite angry with himself for being so dull as to leave the fellow
to the shoe lying in the road instead of taking it with him; so he
tied the ox to the fence, and said to himself, 'I may just as well
run back and pick up the other, and then I'll have a pair of good
shoes for my old dame, and so, perhaps, I'll get a kind word from her
So he set off, and hunted and hunted up and down for the shoe, but no
shoe did he find; and at length he had to go back with the one he
had. But, meanwhile the youth had taken the ox and gone off with it;
and when the man came and saw his ox gone, he began to cry and
bewail, for he was afraid his old dame would kill him outright when
she came to know that the ox was lost. But just then it came across
his mind that he would go home and take the second ox, and drive it
to the town, and not let his old dame know anything about the matter.
So he did this, and went home and took the ox without his dame's
knowing it, and set off with it to the town. But the robbers knew all
about it, and they said to the youth, if he could get this ox too,
without the man's knowing it, and without his doing him any harm, he
should be as good as any one of them. If that were all, the youth
said, he did not think it a very hard thing.
This time he took with him a rope, and hung himself up under the arm-
pits to a tree right in the man's way. So the man came along with his
ox, and when he saw such a sight hanging there he began to feel a
'Well', said he, 'whatever heavy thoughts you had who have hanged
yourself up there, it can't be helped; you may hang for what I care!
I can't breathe life into you again'; and with that he went on his
way with his ox. Down slipped the youth from the tree, and ran by a
footpath, and got before the man, and hung himself up right in his
'Bless me!' said the man, 'were you really so heavy at heart that you
hanged yourself up there--or is it only a piece of witchcraft that I
see before me? Aye, aye! you may hang for all I care, whether you are
a ghost or whatever you are.' So he passed on with his ox.
Now the youth did just as he had done twice before; he jumped down
from the tree, ran through the wood by a footpath, and hung himself
up right in the man's way again. But when the man saw this sight for
the third time, he said to himself:
'Well! this is an ugly business! Is it likely now that they should
have been so heavy at heart as to hang themselves, all these three?
No! I cannot think it is anything else than a piece of witchcraft
that I see. But now I'll soon know for certain; if the other two are
still hanging there, it must be really so; but if they are not, then
it can be nothing but witchcraft that I see.'
So he tied up his ox, and ran back to see if the others were still
really hanging there. But while he went and peered up into all the
trees, the youth jumped down and took his ox and ran off with it.
When the man came back and found his ox gone, he was in a sad plight,
and, as any one might know without being told, he began to cry and
bemoan; but at last he came to take it easier, and so he thought:
'There's no other help for it than to go home and take the third ox
without my dame's knowing it, and to try and drive a good bargain
with it, so that I may get a good sum of money for it.'
So he went home and set off with the ox, and his old dame knew never
a word about the matter. But the robbers, they knew all about it, and
they said to the youth, that if he could steal this ox as he had
stolen the other two, then he should be master over the whole band.
Well, the youth set off, and ran into the wood; and as the man came
by with his ox he set up a dreadful bellowing, just like a great ox
in the wood. When the man heard that, you can't think how glad he
was, for it seemed to him that he knew the voice of his big bullock,
and he thought that now he should find both of them again; so he tied
up the third ox, and ran off from the road to look for them in the
wood; but meantime the youth went off with the third ox. Now, when
the man came back and found he had lost this ox too, he was so wild
that there was no end to his grief. He cried and roared and beat his
breast, and, to tell the truth, it was many days before he dared go
home; for he was afraid lest his old dame should kill him outright on
As for the robbers, they were not very well pleased either, when they
had to own that the youth was master over the whole band. So one day
they thought they would try their hands at something which he was not
man enough to do; and they set off all together, every man Jack of
them, and left him alone at home. Now, the first thing that he did
when they were all well clear of the house, was to drive the oxen out
to the road, so that they might run back to the man from whom he had
stolen them; and right glad he was to see them, as you may fancy.
Next he took all the horses which the robbers had, and loaded them
with the best things he could lay his hands on-gold and silver, and
clothes and other fine things; and then he bade the old dame to greet
the robbers when they came back, and to thank them for him, and to
say that now he was setting off on his travels, and they would have
hard work to find him again; and with that, off he started.
After a good bit he came to the road along which he was going when he
fell among the robbers, and when he got near home, and could see his
father's cottage, he put on a uniform which he had found among the
clothes he had taken from the robbers, and which was made just like a
general's. So he drove up to the door as if he were any other great
man. After that he went in and asked if he could have a lodging? No;
that he couldn't at any price.
'How ever should I be able', said the man, 'to make room in my house
for such a fine gentleman--I who scarce have a rag to lie upon, and
miserable rags too?'
'You always were a stingy old hunks', said the youth, 'and so you are
still, when you won't take your own son in.'
'What, you my son!' said the man.
'Don't you know me again?' said the youth. Well, after a little while
he did know him again.
'But what have you been turning your hand to, that you have made
yourself so great a man in such haste?' asked the man.
'Oh! I'll soon tell you', said the youth. 'You said I might take to
any trade I chose, and so I bound myself apprentice to a pack of
thieves and robbers, and now I've served my time out, and am become a
Now there lived a Squire close by to his father's cottage, and he had
such a great house, and such heaps of money, he could not tell how
much he had. He had a daughter too, and a smart and pretty girl she
was. So the Master Thief set his heart upon having her to wife, and
he told his father to go to the Squire and ask for his daughter for
'If he asks by what trade I get my living, you can say I'm a Master
'I think you've lost your wits', said the man, 'for you can't be in
your right mind when you think of such stuff.'
No! he had not lost his wits, his father must and should go to the
Squire, and ask for his daughter.
'Nay, but I tell you, I daren't go to the Squire and be your
spokesman; he who is so rich, and has so much money', said the man.
Yes, there was no help for it, said the Master Thief; he should go
whether he would or no; and if he did not go by fair means, he would
soon make him go by foul. But the man was still loath to go; so he
stepped after him, and rubbed him down with a good birch cudgel, and
kept on till the man came crying and sobbing inside the Squire's
'How now, my man! what ails you?' said the Squire. So he told him the
whole story; how he had three sons who set off one day, and how he
had given them leave to go whithersoever they would, and to follow
whatever calling they chose. 'And here now is the youngest come home,
and has thrashed me till he has made me come to you and ask for your
daughter for him to wife; and he bids me say, besides, that he's a
Master Thief.' And so he fell to crying and sobbing again.
'Never mind, my man', said the Squire, laughing; 'just go back and
tell him from me, he must prove his skill first. If he can steal the
roast from the spit in the kitchen on Sunday, while all the household
are looking after it, he shall have my daughter. Just go and tell him
So he went back and told the youth, who thought it would be an easy
job. So he set about and caught three hares alive, and put them into
a bag, and dressed himself in some old rags, until he looked so poor
and filthy that it made one's heart bleed to see; and then he stole
into the passage at the back-door of the Squire's house on the Sunday
forenoon, with his bag, just like any other beggar-boy. But the
Squire himself and all his household were in the kitchen watching the
roast. Just as they were doing this, the youth let one hare go, and
it set off and ran round and round the yard in front of the house.
'Oh, just look at that hare!' said the folk in the kitchen, and were
all for running out to catch it.
Yes, the Squire saw it running too. 'Oh, let it run', said he;
'there's no use in thinking to catch a hare on the spring.'
A little while after, the youth let the second hare go, and they saw
it in the kitchen, and thought it was the same they had seen before,
and still wanted to run out and catch it; but the Squire said again
it was no use. It was not long before the youth let the third hare
go, and it set off and ran round and round the yard as the others
before it. Now, they saw it from the kitchen, and still thought it
was the same hare that kept on running about, and were all eager to
be out after it.
'Well, it is a fine hare', said the Squire; 'come let's see if we
can't lay our hands on it.'
So out he ran, and the rest with him--away they all went, the hare
before, and they after; so that it was rare fun to see. But meantime
the youth took the roast and ran off with it; and where the Squire
got a roast for his dinner that day I don't know; but one thing I
know, and that is, that he had no roast hare, though he ran after it
till he was both warm and weary.
Now it chanced that the Priest came to dinner that day, and when the
Squire told him what a trick the Master Thief had played him, he made
such game of him that there was no end of it.
'For my part', said the Priest, 'I can't think how it could ever
happen to me to be made such a fool of by a fellow like that.'
'Very well--only keep a sharp look-out', said the Squire; 'maybe
he'll come to see you before you know a word of it.' But the Priest
stuck to his text--that he did, and made game of the Squire because
he had been so taken in.
Later in the afternoon came the Master Thief, and wanted to have the
Squire's daughter, as he had given his word. But the Squire began to
talk him over, and said, 'Oh, you must first prove your skill a
little more; for what you did to-day was no great thing, after all.
Couldn't you now play off a good trick on the Priest, who is sitting
in there, and making game of me for letting such a fellow as you
twist me round his thumb.'
'Well, as for that, it wouldn't be hard', said the Master Thief. So
he dressed himself up like a bird, threw a great white sheet over his
body, took the wings of a goose and tied them to his back, and so
climbed up into a great maple which stood in the Priest's garden. And
when the Priest came home in the evening, the youth began to bawl
'Father Laurence! Father Laurence!'--for that was the Priest's name.
'Who is that calling me?' said the Priest.
'I am an angel', said the Master Thief, 'sent from God to let you
know that you shall be taken up alive into heaven for your piety's
sake. Next Monday night you must hold yourself ready for the journey,
for I shall come then to fetch you in a sack; and all your gold and
your silver, and all that you have of this world's goods, you must
lay together in a heap in your dining-room.'
Well, Father Laurence fell on his knees before the angel, and thanked
him; and the very next day he preached a farewell sermon, and gave it
out how there had come down an angel unto the big maple in his
garden, who had told him that he was to be taken up alive into heaven
for his piety's sake; and he preached and made such a touching
discourse, that all who were at church wept, both young and old.
So the next Monday night came the Master Thief like an angel again,
and the Priest fell on his knees and thanked him before he was put
into the sack; but when he had got him well in, the Master Thief drew
and dragged him over stocks and stones.
'OW! OW!' groaned the Priest inside the sack, 'wherever are we
'This is the narrow way which leadeth unto the kingdom of heaven',
said the Master Thief, who went on dragging him along till he had
nearly broken every bone in his body. At last he tumbled him into a
goose-house that belonged to the Squire, and the geese began pecking
and pinching him with their bills, so that he was more dead than
'Now you are in the flames of purgatory, to be cleansed and purified
for life everlasting', said the Master Thief; and with that he went
his way, and took all the gold which the Priest had laid together in
his dining-room. The next morning, when the goose-girl came to let
the geese out, she heard how the Priest lay in the sack, and bemoaned
himself in the goose-house.
'In heaven's name, who's there, and what ails you?' she cried.
'Oh!' said the Priest, 'if you are an angel from heaven, do let me
out, and let me return again to earth, for it is worse here than in
hell. The little fiends keep on pinching me with tongs.'
'Heaven help us, I am no angel at all', said the girl, as she helped
the Priest out of the sack; 'I only look after the Squire's geese,
and like enough they are the little fiends which have pinched your
'Oh!' groaned the Priest, 'this is all that Master Thief's doing. Ah!
my gold and my silver, and my fine clothes.' And he beat his breast,
and hobbled home at such a rate that the girl thought he had lost his
wits all at once.
Now when the Squire came to hear how it had gone with the Priest, and
how he had been along the narrow way, and into purgatory, he laughed
till he well-nigh split his sides. But when the Master Thief came and
asked for his daughter as he had promised, the Squire put him off
again, and said:
'You must do one masterpiece better still, that I may see plainly
what you are fit for. Now, I have twelve horses in my stable, and on
them I will put twelve grooms, one on each. If you are so good a
thief as to steal the horses from under them, I'll see what I can do
'Very well, I daresay I can do it', said the Master Thief; 'but shall
I really have your daughter if I can?'
'Yes, if you can, I'll do my best for you', said the Squire. So the
Master Thief set off to a shop, and bought brandy enough to fill two
pocket-flasks, and into one of them he put a sleepy drink, but into
the other only brandy. After that he hired eleven men to lie in wait
at night, behind the Squire's stable-yard; and last of all, for fair
words and a good bit of money, he borrowed a ragged gown and cloak
from an old woman; and so, with a staff in his hand, and a bundle at
his back, he limped off, as evening drew on, towards the Squire's
stable. Just as he got there they were watering the horses for the
night, and had their hands full of work. 'What the devil do you
want?' said one of the grooms to the old woman.
'Oh, oh! hutetu! it is so bitter cold', said she, and shivered and
shook, and made wry faces. 'Hutetu! it is so cold, a poor wretch may
easily freeze to death'; and with that she fell to shivering and
'Oh! for the love of heaven, can I get leave to stay here a while,
and sit inside the stable door?'
'To the devil with your leave', said one. 'Pack yourself off this
minute, for if the Squire sets his eye on you, he'll lead us a pretty
'Oh! the poor old bag-of-bones', said another, whose heart took pity
on her, 'the old hag may sit inside and welcome; such a one as she
can do no harm.'
And the rest said, some she should stay, and some she shouldn't; but
while they were quarrelling and minding the horses, she crept further
and further into the stable, till at last she sat herself down behind
the door; and when she had got so far, no one gave any more heed to
As the night wore on, the men found it rather cold work to sit so
still and quiet on horseback.
'Hutetu! it is so devilish cold', said one, and beat his arms
'That it is', said another; 'I freeze so, that my teeth chatter.'
'If one only had a quid to chew', said a third.
Well! there was one who had an ounce or two; so they shared it
between them, though it wasn't much, after all, that each got; and so
they chewed and spat, and spat and chewed. This helped them somewhat;
but in a little while they were just as bad as ever.
'Hutetu!' said one, and shivered and shook.
'Hutetu!' said the old woman, and shivered so, that every tooth in
her head chattered. Then she pulled out the flask with brandy in it,
and her hand shook so that the spirit splashed about in the flask,
and then she took such a gulp, that it went 'bop' in her throat.
'What's that you've got in your flask, old girl?' said one of the
'Oh! it's only a drop of brandy, old man', said she.
'Brandy! Well, I never! Do let me have a drop', screamed the whole
twelve, one after another.
'Oh! but it is such a little drop', mumbled the old woman, 'it will
not even wet your mouths round.' But they must and would have it;
there was no help for it; and so she pulled out the flask with the
sleepy drink in it, and put it to the first man's lips; then she
shook no more, but guided the flask so that each of them got what he
wanted, and the twelfth had not done drinking before the first sat
and snored. Then the Master Thief threw off his beggar's rags, and
took one groom after the other so softly off their horses, and set
them astride on the beams between the stalls; and so he called his
eleven men, and rode off with the Squire's twelve horses. But when
the Squire got up in the morning, and went to look after his grooms,
they had just begun to come to; and some of them fell to spurring the
beams with their spurs, till the splinters flew again, and some fell
off, and some still hung on and sat there looking like fools.
'Ho! ho!' said the Squire; 'I see very well who has been here; but as
for you, a pretty set of blockheads you must be to sit here and let
the Master Thief steal the horses from between your legs.'
So they all got a good leathering because they had not kept a sharper
Further on in the day came the Master Thief again, and told how he
had managed the matter, and asked for the Squire's daughter, as he
had promised; but the Squire gave him one hundred dollars down, and
said he must do something better still.
'Do you think now', said he, 'you can steal the horse from under me
while I am out riding on his back?' 'O, yes! I daresay I could', said
the Master Thief, 'if I were really sure of getting your daughter.'
Well, well, the Squire would see what he could do; and he told the
Master Thief a day when he would be taking a ride on a great common
where they drilled the troops. So the Master Thief soon got hold of
an old worn-out jade of a mare, and set to work, and made traces and
collar of withies and broom-twigs, and bought an old beggarly cart
and a great cask. After that he told an old beggar woman, he would
give her ten dollars if she would get inside the cask, and keep her
mouth agape over the taphole, into which he was going to stick his
finger. No harm should happen to her; she should only be driven about
a little; and if he took his finger out more than once, she was to
have ten dollars more. Then he threw a few rags and tatters over
himself, and stuffed himself out, and put on a wig and a great beard
of goat's hair, so that no one could know him again, and set off for
the common, where the Squire had already been riding about a good
bit. When he reached the place, he went along so softly and slowly
that he scarce made an inch of way. 'Gee up! Gee up!' and so he went
on a little; then he stood stock still, and so on a little again; and
altogether the pace was so poor it never once came into the Squire's
head that this could be the Master Thief.
At last the Squire rode right up to him, and asked if he had seen any
one lurking about in the wood thereabouts. 'No', said the man, 'I
haven't seen a soul.'
'Harkye, now', said the Squire, 'if you have a mind to ride into the
wood, and hunt about and see if you can fall upon any one lurking
about there, you shall have the loan of my horse, and a shilling into
the bargain, to drink my health, for your pains.'
'I don't see how I can go', said the man, 'for I am going to a
wedding with this cask of mead, which I have been to town to fetch,
and here the tap has fallen out by the way, and so I must go along,
holding my finger in the taphole.'
'Ride off', said the Squire; 'I'll look after your horse and cask.'
Well, on these terms the man was willing to go; but he begged the
Squire to be quick in putting his finger into the taphole when he
took his own out, and to mind and keep it there till he came back. At
last the Squire grew weary of standing there with his finger in the
taphole, so he took it out.
'Now I shall have ten dollars more!' screamed the old woman inside
the cask; and then the Squire saw at once how the land lay, and took
himself off home; but he had not gone far before they met him with a
fresh horse, for the Master Thief had already been to his house, and
told them to send one. The day after, he came to the Squire and would
have his daughter, as he had given his word; but the Squire put him
off again with fine words, and gave him two hundred dollars, and said
he must do one more masterpiece. If he could do that, he should have
her. Well, well, the Master Thief thought he could do it, if he only
knew what it was to be.
'Do you think, now', said the Squire, 'you can steal the sheet off
our bed, and the shift off my wife's back. Do you think you could do
'It shall be done', said the Master Thief. 'I only wish I was as sure
of getting your daughter.'
So when night began to fall, the Master Thief went out and cut down a
thief who hung on the gallows, and threw him across his shoulders,
and carried him off. Then he got a long ladder and set it up against
the Squire's bedroom window, and so climbed up, and kept bobbing the
dead man up and down, just for all the world like one that was
peeping in at the window.
'That's the Master Thief, old lass!' said the Squire, and gave his
wife a nudge on the side. 'Now see if I don't shoot him, that's all.'
So saying he took up a rifle which he had laid at his bedside.
'No! no! pray don't shoot him after telling him he might come and
try', said his wife.
'Don't talk to me, for shoot him I will', said he; and so he lay
there and aimed and aimed; but as soon as the head came up before the
window, and he saw a little of it, so soon was it down again. At last
he thought he had a good aim; 'bang' went the gun, down fell the dead
body to the ground with a heavy thump, and down went the Master Thief
too as fast as he could.
'Well', said the Squire, 'it is quite true that I am the chief
magistrate in these parts; but people are fond of talking, and it
would be a bore if they came to see this dead man's body. I think the
best thing to be done is that I should go down and bury him.'
'You must do as you think best, dear', said his wife. So the Squire
got out of bed and went downstairs, and he had scarce put his foot
out of the door before the Master Thief stole in, and went straight
upstairs to his wife.
'Why, dear, back already!' said she, for she thought it was her
'O yes, I only just put him into a hole, and threw a little earth
over him. It is enough that he is out of sight, for it is such a bad
night out of doors; by-and-by I'll do it better. But just let me have
the sheet to wipe myself with--he was so bloody--and I have made
myself in such a mess with him.'
So he got the sheet.
After a while he said:
'Do you know I am afraid you must let me have your nightshift too,
for the sheet won't do by itself; that I can see.'
So she gave him the shift also. But just then it came across his mind
that he had forgotten to lock the house-door, so he must step down
and look to that before he came back to bed, and away he went with
both shift and sheet.
A little while after came the true Squire.
'Why! what a time you've taken to lock the door, dear!' said his
wife; 'and what have you done with the sheet and shift?'
'What do you say?' said the Squire.
'Why, I am asking what you have done with the sheet and shift that
you had to wipe off the blood', said she.
'What, in the Deil's name!' said the Squire, 'has he taken me in this
Next day came the Master Thief and asked for the Squire's daughter,
as he had given his word; and then the Squire dared not do anything
else than give her to him, and a good lump of money into the bargain;
for, to tell the truth, he was afraid lest the Master Thief should
steal the eyes out of his head, and that the people would begin to
say spiteful things of him if he broke his word. So the Master Thief
lived well and happily from that time forward. I don't know whether
he stole any more; but if he did, I am quite sure it was only for the
sake of a bit of fun.
THE BEST WISH
Once on a time there were three brothers; I don't quite know how it
happened, but each of them had got the right to wish one thing,
whatever he chose. So the two elder were not long a-thinking; they
wished that every time they put their hands in their pockets they
might pull out a piece of money; for, said they:
'The man who has as much money as he wishes for is always sure to get
on in the world.'
But the youngest wished something better still. He wished that every
woman he saw might fall in love with him as soon as she saw him; and
you shall soon hear how far better this was than gold and goods.
So, when they had all wished their wishes, the two elder were for
setting out to see the world; and Boots, their youngest brother,
asked if he mightn't go along with them; but they wouldn't hear of
such a thing.
'Wherever we go', they said, 'we shall be treated as counts and
kings; but you, you starveling wretch, who haven't a penny, and never
will have one, who do you think will care a bit about you?'
'Well, but in spite of that, I'd like to go with you', said Boots;
'perhaps a dainty bit may fall to my share too off the plates of such
high and mighty lords.'
At last, after begging and praying, he got leave to go with them, if
he would be their servant, else they wouldn't hear of it.
So, when they had gone a day or so, they came to an inn, where the
two who had the money alighted, and called for fish and flesh, and
fowl, and brandy and mead, and everything that was good; but Boots,
poor fellow, had to look after their luggage and all that belonged to
the two great people. Now, as he went to and fro outside, and
loitered about in the inn-yard, the innkeeper's wife looked out of
window and saw the servant of the gentlemen upstairs; and, all at
once, she thought she had never set eyes on such a handsome chap. So
she stared and stared, and the longer she looked the handsomer he
'Why what, by the Deil's skin and bones, is it that you are standing
there gaping at out of the window?' said her husband. 'I think
'twould be better if you just looked how the sucking pig is getting
on, instead of hanging out of window in that way. Don't you know what
grand folk we have in the house to-day?'
'Oh!' said his old dame, 'I don't care a farthing about such a pack
of rubbish; if they don't like it they may lump it, and be off; but
just do come and look at this lad out in the yard; so handsome a
fellow I never saw in all my born days; and, if you'll do as I wish,
we'll ask him to step in and treat him a little, for, poor lad, he
seems to have a hard fight of it.'
'Have you lost the little brains you had, Goody?' said the husband,
whose eyes glistened with rage; 'into the kitchen with you, and mind
the fire; but don't stand there glowering after strange men.'
So the wife had nothing left for it but to go into the kitchen, and
look after the cooking; as for the lad outside, she couldn't get
leave to ask him in, or to treat him either; but just as she was
about spitting the pig in the kitchen, she made an excuse for running
out into the yard, and then and there she gave Boots a pair of
scissors, of such a kind that they cut of themselves out of the air
the loveliest clothes any one ever saw, silk and satin, and all that
'This you shall have because you are so handsome,' said the
So when the two elder brothers had crammed themselves with roast and
boiled, they wished to be off again, and Boots had to stand behind
their carriage, and be their servant; and so they travelled a good
way, till they came to another inn. There the two brothers again
alighted and went indoors, but Boots, who had no money, they wouldn't
have inside with them; no, he must wait outside and watch the
luggage. 'And mind', they said, 'if any one asks whose servant you
are, say we are two foreign Princes.'
But the same thing happened now as happened before; while Boots stood
hanging about out in the yard, the innkeeper's wife came to the
window and saw him, and she too fell in love with him, just like the
first innkeeper's wife; and there she stood and stared, for she
thought she could never have her fill of looking at him. Then her
husband came running through the room with something the two Princes
'Don't stand there staring like a cow at a barn-door, but take this
into the kitchen, and look after your fish-kettle, Goody', said the
man; 'don't you see what grand people we have in the house to-day?'
'I don't care a farthing for such a pack of rubbish', said the wife;
'if they don't like what they get they may lump it, and eat what they
brought with them. But just do come here, and see what you shall see!
Such a handsome fellow as walks here, out in the yard, I never saw in
all my born days. Shan't we ask him in and treat him a little; he
looks as if he needed it, poor chap?' and then she went on:
'Such a love! such a love!'
'You never had much wit, and the little you had is clean gone, I can
see', said the man, who was much more angry than the first innkeeper,
and chased his wife back, neck and crop, into the kitchen.
'Into the kitchen with you, and don't stand glowering after lads', he
So she had to go in and mind her fish-kettle, and she dared not treat
Boots, for she was afraid of her old man; but as she stood there
making up the fire, she made an excuse for running out into the yard,
and then and there she gave Boots a table-cloth, which was such that
it covered itself with the best dishes you could think of, as soon as
it was spread out.
'This you shall have', she said, 'because you're so handsome.'
So when the two brothers had eaten and drank of all that was in the
house, and had paid the bill in hard cash, they set off again, and
Boots stood up behind their carriage. But when they had gone so far
that they grew hungry again, they turned into a third inn, and called
for the best and dearest they could think of.
'For', said they, 'we are two kings on our travels, and as for our
money, it grows like grass.'
Well, when the innkeeper heard that, there was such a roasting, and
baking, and boiling; why! you might smell the dinner at the next
neighbour's house, though it wasn't so very near; and the innkeeper
was at his wits' end to find all he wished to put before the two
kings. But Boots, he had to stand outside here too, and look after
the things in the carriage.
So it was the same story over again. The innkeeper's wife came to the
window and peeped out, and there she saw the servant standing by the
carriage. Such a handsome chap she had never set eyes on before; so
she looked and looked, and the more she stared the handsomer he
seemed to the innkeeper's wife. Then out came the innkeeper,
scampering through the room, with some dainty which the travelling
kings had ordered, and he wasn't very soft-tongued when he saw his
old dame standing and glowering out of the window.
'Don't you know better than to stand gaping and staring there, when
we have such great folk in the house', he said; 'back into the
kitchen with you this minute, to your custards.'
'Well! well!' she said, 'as for them, I don't care a pin. If they
can't wait till the custards are baked, they may go without--that's
all. But do, pray, come here, and you'll see such a lovely lad
standing out here in the yard. Why I never saw such a pretty fellow
in my life. Shan't we ask him in now, and treat him a little, for he
looks as if it would do him good. Oh! what a darling! What a
'A wanton gadabout you've been all your days, and so you are still',
said her husband, who was in such a rage he scarce knew which leg to
stand on; 'but if you don't be off to your custards this minute, I'll
soon find out how to make you stir your stumps; see if I don't.'
So the wife had off to her custards as fast as she could, for she
knew that her husband would stand no nonsense; but as she stood there
over the fire she stole out into the yard, and gave Boots a tap.
'If you only turn this tap', she said; 'you'll get the finest drink
of whatever kind you choose, both mead, and wine, and brandy; and
this you shall have because you are so handsome.'
So when the two brothers had eaten and drunk all they could, they
started from the inn, and Boots stood up behind again as their
servant, and thus they drove far and wide, till they came to a king's
palace. There the two elder gave themselves out for two emperor's
sons, and as they had plenty of money, and were so fine that their
clothes shone again ever so far off, they were well treated. They had
rooms in the palace, and the king couldn't tell how to make enough of
them. But Boots, who went about in the same rags he stood in when he
left home, and who had never a penny in his pocket, he was taken up
by the king's guard, and put across to an island, whither they used
to row over all the beggars and rogues that came to the palace. This
the king had ordered, because he wouldn't have the mirth at the
palace spoilt by those dirty blackguards; and thither, too, only just
as much food as would keep body and soul together was sent over
everyday. Now Boots' brothers saw very well that the guard was rowing
him over to the island, but they were glad to be rid of him, and
didn't pay the least heed to him.
But when Boots got over there, he just pulled out his scissors and
began to snip and cut in the air; so the scissors cut out the finest
clothes any one would wish to see; silk and satin both, and all the
beggars on the island were soon dressed far finer than the king and
all his guests in the palace. After that, Boots pulled out his table-
cloth, and spread it out, and so they got food too, the poor beggars.
Such a feast had never been seen at the king's palace, as was served
that day at the Beggars' Isle.
'Thirsty, too, I'll be bound you all are', said Boots, and out with
his tap, gave it a turn, and so the beggars got all a drop to drink;
and such ale and mead the king himself had never tasted in all his
So, next morning, when those who were to bring the beggars their food
on the island, came rowing over with the scrapings of the porridge-
pots and cheese-parings--that was what the poor wretches had--the
beggars wouldn't so much as taste them, and the king's men fell to
wondering what it could mean; but they wondered much more when they
got a good look at the beggars, for they were so fine the guard
thought they must be Emperors or Popes at least, and that they must
have rowed to a wrong island; but when they looked better about them,
they saw they were come to the old place.
Then they soon found out it must be he whom they had rowed out the
day before who had brought the beggars on the island all this state
and bravery; and as soon as they got back to the palace, they were
not slow to tell how the man, whom they had rowed over the day
before, had dressed out all the beggars so fine and grand that
precious things fell from their clothes.
'And as for the porridge and cheese we took, they wouldn't even taste
them, so proud have they got', they said.
One of them, too, had smelt out that the lad had a pair of scissors
which he cut out the clothes with.
'When he only snips with those scissors up in the air he snips and
cuts out nothing but silk and satin', said he.
So, when the Princess heard that, she had neither peace nor rest till
she saw the lad and his scissors that cut out silk and satin from the
air; such a pair was worth having, she thought, for with its help she
would soon get all the finery she wished for. Well, she begged the
king so long and hard, he was forced to send a messenger for the lad
who owned the scissors; and when he came to the palace, the Princess
asked him if it were true that he had such and such a pair of
scissors, and if he would sell it to her. Yes, it was all true he had
such a pair, said Boots, but sell it he wouldn't; and with that he
took the scissors out of his pocket, and snipped and snipped with
them in the air till strips of silk and satin flew all about him.
'Nay, but you must sell me these scissors', said the Princess. 'You
may ask what you please for them, but have them I must.'
No! Such a pair of scissors he wouldn't sell at any price, for he
could never get such a pair again; and while they stood and haggled
for the scissors, the Princess had time to look better at Boots, and
she too thought with the innkeepers' wives that she had never seen
such a handsome fellow before. So she began to bargain for the
scissors over again, and begged and prayed Boots to let her have
them; he might ask many, many hundred dollars for them, 'twas all the
same to her, so she got them.
'No! sell them I won't', said Boots; 'but all the same, if I can get
leave to sleep one night on the floor of the Princess' bedroom, close
by the door, I'll give her the scissors. I'll do her no harm, but if
she's afraid, she may have two men to watch inside the room.'
Yes! the Princess was glad enough to give him leave, for she was
ready to grant him anything if she only got the scissors. So Boots
lay on the floor inside the Princess' bedroom that night, and two men
stood watch there too; but the Princess didn't get much rest after
all; for when she ought to have been asleep, she must open her eyes
to look at Boots, and so it went on the whole night. If she shut her
eyes for a minute, she peeped out at him again the next, such a
handsome fellow he seemed to her to be.
Next morning Boots was rowed over to the Beggars' isle again; but
when they came with the porridge scrapings and cheese parings from
the palace, there was no one who would taste them that day either,
and so those who brought the food were more astonished than ever. But
one of those who brought the food contrived to smell out that the lad
who had owned the scissors owned also a table-cloth, which he only
needed to spread out, and it was covered with all the good things he
could wish for. So when he got back to the palace, he wasn't long
before he said:
'Such hot joints and such custards I never saw the like of in the
And when the Princess heard that, she told it to the king, and begged
and prayed so long, that he was forced to send a messenger out to the
island to fetch the lad who owned the table-cloth; and so Boots came
back to the palace. The Princess must and would have the cloth of
him, and offered him gold and green woods for it, but Boots wouldn't
sell it at any price.
'But if I may have leave to lie on the bench by the Princess' bed-
side to-night, she shall have the cloth; but if she's afraid, she is
welcome to set four men to watch inside the room.'
Yes! the Princess agreed to this, so Boots lay down on the bench by
the bed-side, and the four men watched; but if the Princess hadn't
much sleep the night before, she had much less this, for she could
scarce get a wink of sleep; there she lay wide awake looking at the
lovely lad the whole night through, and after all, the night seemed
Next morning Boots was rowed off again to the Beggars' island, though
sorely against the Princess' will, so happy was she to be near him;
but it was past praying for; to the island he must go, and there was
an end of it. But when those who brought the food to the beggars came
with the porridge scrapings and cheese parings, there wasn't one of
them who would even look at what the king sent, and those who brought
it didn't wonder either; though they all thought it strange that none
of them were thirsty. But just then, one of the king's guard smelled
out that the lad who had owned the scissors and the table-cloth had a
tap besides, which, if one only turned it a little, gave out the
rarest drink, both ale, and mead, and wine. So when he came back to
the palace, he couldn't keep his mouth shut this time any more than
before; he went about telling high and low about the tap, and how
easy it was to draw all sorts of drink out of it.
'And as for that mead and ale, I've never tasted the like of them in
the king's palace; honey and syrup are nothing to them for
So when the Princess heard that, she was all for getting the tap, and
was nothing loath to strike a bargain with the owner either. So she
went again to the king, and begged him to send a messenger to the
Beggars' Isle after the lad who had owned the scissors and cloth, for
now he had another thing worth having, she said; and when the king
heard it was a tap, that was good to give the best ale and wine any
one could drink, when one gave it a turn, he wasn't long in sending
the messenger, I should think.
So when Boots came up to the palace, the Princess asked whether it
were true he had a tap which could do such and such things? 'Yes! he
had such a tap in his waistcoat pocket', said Boots; but when the
Princess wished with all her might to buy it, Boots said, as he had
said twice before, he wouldn't sell it, even if the Princess bade
half the kingdom for it.
'But all the same', said Boots; 'if I may have leave to sleep on the
Princess' bed to-night, outside the quilt, she shall have my tap.
I'll not do her any harm; but, if she's afraid, she may set eight men
to watch in her room.'
'Oh, no!' said the Princess, 'there was no need of that, she knew him
now so well'; and so Boots lay outside the Princess' bed that night.
But if she hadn't slept much the two nights before, she had less
sleep that night; for she couldn't shut her eyes the livelong night,
but lay and looked at Boots, who lay alongside her outside the quilt.
So, when she got up in the morning, and they were going to row Boots
back to the island, she begged them to hold hard a little bit; and in
she ran to the king, and begged him so prettily to let her have Boots
for a husband, she was so fond of him, and, unless she had him, she
did not care to live.
'Well, well!' said the king, 'you shall have him if you must; for he
who has such things is just as rich as you are.'
So Boots got the Princess and half the kingdom--the other half he was
to have when the king died; and so everything went smooth and well;
but as for his brothers, who had always been so bad to him, he packed
them off to the Beggars' island.
'There', said Boots, 'perhaps they may find out which is best off,
the man who has his pockets full of money, or the man whom all women
fall in love with.'
Nor, to tell you the truth, do I think it would help them much to
wander about upon the Beggars' island pulling pieces of money out of
their pockets; and so, if Boots hasn't taken them off the island,
there they are still walking about to this very day, eating cheese-
parings and the scrapings of the porridge-pots.
THE THREE BILLY-GOATS GRUFF
Once on a time there were three Billy-goats, who were to go up to the
hill-side to make themselves fat, and the name of all three was
On the way up was a bridge over a burn they had to cross; and under
the bridge lived a great ugly Troll, with eyes as big as saucers, and
a nose as long as a poker.
So first of all came the youngest billy-goat Gruff to cross the
'Trip, trap; trip, trap!' went the bridge.
'WHO'S THAT tripping over my bridge?' roared the Troll.
'Oh! it is only I, the tiniest billy-goat Gruff; and I'm going up to
the hill-side to make myself fat', said the billy-goat, with such a
'Now, I'm coming to gobble you up', said the Troll.
'Oh, no! pray don't take me. I'm too little, that I am', said the
billy-goat; 'wait a bit till the second billy-goat Gruff comes, he's
'Well! be off with you', said the Troll.
A little while after came the second billy-goat Gruff to cross the
'TRIP, TRAP! TRIP, TRAP! TRIP, TRAP!' went the bridge.
'WHO'S THAT tripping over my bridge?' roared the Troll.
'Oh! it's the second billy-goat Gruff, and I'm going up to the hill-
side to make myself fat', said the billy-goat, who hadn't such a
'Now, I'm coming to gobble you up', said the Troll.
'Oh, no! don't take me, wait a little till the big billy-goat Gruff
comes, he's much bigger.'
'Very well! be off with you', said the Troll.
But just then up came the big billy-goat Gruff.
'TRIP, TRAP! TRIP, TRAP! TRIP, TRAP!' went the bridge, for the billy-
goat was so heavy that the bridge creaked and groaned under him.
'WHO'S THAT tramping over my bridge?' roared the Troll.
'IT'S I! THE BIG BILLY-GOAT GRUFF', said the billy-goat, who had an
ugly hoarse voice of his own.
'Now, I'm coming to gobble you up', roared the Troll.
Well, come along! I've got two spears,
And I'll poke your eyeballs out at your ears;
I've got besides two curling-stones,
And I'll crush you to bits, body and bones.
That was what the big billy-goat said; and so he flew at the Troll
and poked his eyes out with his horns, and crushed him to bits, body
and bones, and tossed him out into the burn, and after that he went
up to the hill-side. There the billy-goats got so fat they were
scarce able to walk home again; and if the fat hasn't fallen off
them, why they're still fat; and so:
Snip, snap, snout,
This tale's told out.
WELL DONE AND ILL PAID
Once on a time there was a man, who had to drive his sledge to the
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