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she saw the bear, she came out and spoke to him, and inquired why he
looked so sad. The bear told her of the loss of his wife, and of his
search after a mourner that could lament over her in the proper style.
The hare instantly offered her services, but the bear took care to ask
her to give him a proof of her talents, before he accepted them. 'Pu,
pu, pu, pum, poh,' piped the hare; but this time her voice was so small
that the bear could hardly hear her. 'That is not what I want,' he said,
'I will bid you good morning.'

It was after this that the fox came up, and he also was struck with
the bear's altered looks, and stopped. 'What is the matter with you,
godfather?' asked he, 'and where are you going?'

'I am going to find a mourner for my wife,' answered the bear.

'Oh, do choose me,' cried the fox, and the bear looked at him

'Can you howl well?' he said.

'Yes, beautifully, just listen,' and the fox lifted up his voice and
sang weeping: 'Lou, lou, lou! the famous spinner, the baker of good
cakes, the prudent housekeeper is torn from her husband! Lou, lou, lou!
she is gone! she is gone!'

'Now at last I have found some one who knows the art of lamentation,'
exclaimed the bear, quite delighted; and he led the fox back to his
cave, and bade him begin his lament over the dead wife who was lying
stretched out on her bed of grey moss. But this did not suit the fox at

'One cannot wail properly in this cave,' he said, 'it is much too damp.
You had better take the body to the storehouse. It will sound much finer
there.' So the bear carried his wife's body to the storehouse, while
he himself went back to the cave to cook some pap for the mourner. From
time to time he paused and listened for the sound of wailing, but he
heard nothing. At last he went to the door of the storehouse, and called
to the fox:

'Why don't you howl, godfather? What are you about?'

And the fox, who, instead of weeping over the dead bear, had been
quietly eating her, answered:

'There only remain now her legs and the soles of her feet. Give me five
minutes more and they will be gone also!'

When the bear heard that he ran back for the kitchen ladle, to give
the traitor the beating he deserved. But as he opened the door of the
storehouse, Michael was ready for him, and slipping between his legs,
dashed straight off into the forest. The bear, seeing that the traitor
had escaped, flung the ladle after him, and it just caught the tip of
his tail, and that is how there comes to be a spot of white on the tails
of all foxes.

[From Finnische Mahrchen.]

How The Beggar Boy Turned Into Count Piro

Once upon a time there lived a man who had only one son, a lazy, stupid
boy, who would never do anything he was told. When the father was dying,
he sent for his son and told him that he would soon be left alone in
the world, with no possessions but the small cottage they lived in and a
pear tree which grew behind it, and that, whether he liked it or not, he
would have to work, or else he would starve. Then the old man died.

But the boy did not work; instead, he idled about as before, contenting
himself with eating the pears off his tree, which, unlike other pear
trees before or since, bore fruit the whole year round. Indeed, the
pears were so much finer than any you could get even in the autumn, that
one day, in the middle of the winter, they attracted the notice of a fox
who was creeping by.

'Dear me; what lovely pears!' he said to the youth. 'Do give me a basket
of them. It will bring you luck!'

'Ah, little fox, but if I give you a basketful, what am I to eat?' asked
the boy.

'Oh, trust me, and do what I tell you,' said the fox; 'I know it will
bring you luck.' So the boy got up and picked some of the ripest pears
and put them into a rush basket. The fox thanked him, and, taking the
basket in his mouth, trotted off to the king's palace and made his way
straight to the king.

'Your Majesty, my master sends you a few of his best pears, and begs you
will graciously accept them,' he said, laying the basket at the feet of
the king.

'Pears! at this season?' cried the king, peering down to look at them;
'and, pray, who is your master?'

'The Count Piro,' answered the fox.

'But how does he manage to get pears in midwinter?' asked the king.

'Oh, he has everything he wants,' replied the fox; 'he is richer even
than you are, your Majesty.'

'Then what can I send him in return for his pears?' said the king.

'Nothing, your Majesty, or you would hurt his feelings,' answered the

'Well, tell him how heartily I thank him, and how much I shall enjoy
them.' And the fox went away.

He trotted back to the cottage with his empty basket and told his tale,
but the youth did not seem as pleased to hear as the fox was to tell.

'But, my dear little fox,' said he, 'you have brought me nothing in
return, and I am so hungry!'

'Let me alone,' replied the fox; 'I know what I am doing. You will see,
it will bring you luck.'

A few days after this the fox came back again.

'I must have another basket of pears,' said he.

'Ah, little fox, what shall I eat if you take away all my pears?'
answered the youth.

'Be quiet, it will be all right,' said the fox; and taking a bigger
basket than before, he filled it quite full of pears. Then he picked it
up in his mouth, and trotted off to the palace.

'Your Majesty, as you seemed to like the first basket of pears, I have
brought you some more,' said he, 'with my master, the Count Piro's
humble respects.'

'Now, surely it is not possible to grow such pears with deep snow on the
ground?' cried the king.

'Oh, that never affects them,' answered the fox lightly; 'he is rich
enough to do anything. But to-day he sends me to ask if you will give
him your daughter in marriage?'

'If he is so much richer than I am,' said the king, 'I shall be obliged
to refuse. My honour would not permit me to accept his offer.'

'Oh, your Majesty, you must not think that,' replied the fox; 'and do
not let the question of a dowry trouble you. The Count Piro would not
dream of asking anything but the hand of the princess.'

'Is he really so rich that he can do without a dowry?' asked the king.

'Did I not tell your Majesty that he was richer than you?' answered the
fox reproachfully.

'Well, beg him to come here, that we may talk together,' said the king.

So the fox went back to the young man and said: 'I have told the king
that you are Count Piro, and have asked his daughter in marriage.'

'Oh, little fox, what have you done?' cried the youth in dismay; 'when
the king sees me he will order my head to be cut off.'

'Oh, no, he won't!' replied the fox; 'just do as I tell you.' And he
went off to the town, and stopped at the house of the best tailor.

'My master, the Count Piro, begs that you will send him at once the
finest coat that you have in your shop,' said the fox, putting on his
grandest air, 'and if it fits him I will call and pay for it to-morrow!
Indeed, as he is in a great hurry, perhaps it might be as well if I took
it round myself.' The tailor was not accustomed to serve counts, and
he at once got out all the coats he had ready. The fox chose out a
beautiful one of white and silver, bade the tailor tie it up in a
parcel, and carrying the string in his teeth, he left the shop, and went
to a horse-dealer's, whom he persuaded to send his finest horse round to
the cottage, saying that the king had bidden his master to the palace.

Very unwillingly the young man put on the coat and mounted the horse,
and rode up to meet the king, with the fox running before him.

'What am I to say to his Majesty, little fox?' he asked anxiously; 'you
know that I have never spoken to a king before.'

'Say nothing,' answered the fox, 'but leave the talking to me. "Good
morning, your Majesty," will be all that is necessary for you.'

By this time they had reached the palace, and the king came to the door
to receive Count Piro, and led him to the great hall, where a feast was
spread. The princess was already seated at the table, but was as dumb as
Count Piro himself.

'The Count speaks very little,' the king said at last to the fox, and
the fox answered: 'He has so much to think about in the management of
his property that he cannot afford to talk like ordinary people.' The
king was quite satisfied, and they finished dinner, after which Count
Piro and the fox took leave.

The next morning the fox came round again.

'Give me another basket of pears,' he said.

'Very well, little fox; but remember it may cost me my life,' answered
the youth.

'Oh, leave it to me, and do as I tell you, and you will see that in the
end it will bring you luck,' answered the fox; and plucking the pears he
took them up to the king.

'My master, Count Piro, sends you these pears,' he said, 'and asks for
an answer to his proposal.'

'Tell the count that the wedding can take place whenever he pleases,'
answered the king, and, filled with pride, the fox trotted back to
deliver his message.

'But I can't bring the princess here, little fox?' cried the young man
in dismay.

'You leave everything to me,' answered the fox; 'have I not managed
well so far?'

And up at the palace preparations were made for a grand wedding, and the
youth was married to the princess.

After a week of feasting, the fox said to the king: 'My master wishes to
take his young bride home to his own castle.'

'Very well, I will accompany them,' replied the king; and he ordered his
courtiers and attendants to get ready, and the best horses in his stable
to be brought out for himself, Count Piro and the princess. So they all
set out, and rode across the plain, the little fox running before them.

He stopped at the sight of a great flock of sheep, which was feeding
peacefully on the rich grass. 'To whom do these sheep belong?' asked he
of the shepherd. 'To an ogre,' replied the shepherd.

'Hush,' said the fox in a mysterious manner. 'Do you see that crowd
of armed men riding along? If you were to tell them that those sheep
belonged to an ogre, they would kill them, and then the ogre would kill
you! If they ask, just say the sheep belong to Count Piro; it will be
better for everybody.' And the fox ran hastily on, as he did not wish to
be seen talking to the shepherd.

Very soon the king came up.

'What beautiful sheep!' he said, drawing up his horse. 'I have none so
fine in my pastures. Whose are they?'

'Count Piro's,' answered the shepherd, who did not know the king.

'Well, he must be a very rich man,' thought the king to himself, and
rejoiced that he had such a wealthy son-in-law.

Meanwhile the fox had met with a huge herd of pigs, snuffling about the
roots of some trees.

'To whom do these pigs belong?' he asked of the swineherd.

'To an ogre,' replied he.

'Hush!' whispered the fox, though nobody could hear him; 'do you see
that troop of armed men riding towards us? If you tell them that the
pigs belong to the ogre they will kill them, and then the ogre will kill
you! If they ask, just say that the pigs belong to Count Piro; it will
be better for everybody.' And he ran hastily on.

Soon after the king rode up.

'What fine pigs!' he said, reining in his horse. 'They are fatter than
any I have got on my farms. Whose are they?'

'Count Piro's,' answered the swineherd, who did not know the king; and
again the king felt he was lucky to have such a rich son-in-law.

This time the fox ran faster than before, and in a flowery meadow he
found a troop of horses feeding. 'Whose horses are these?' he asked of
the man who was watching them.

'An ogre's,' replied he.

'Hush!' whispered the fox, 'do you see that crowd of armed men coming
towards us? If you tell them the horses belong to an ogre they will
drive them off, and then the ogre will kill you! If they ask, just say
they are Count Piro's; it will be better for everybody.' And he ran on

In a few minutes the king rode up.

'Oh, what lovely creatures! how I wish they were mine!' he exclaimed.
'Whose are they?'

Count Piro's,' answered the man, who did not know the king; and the
king's heart leapt as he thought that if they belonged to his rich
son-in-law they were as good as his.

At last the fox came to the castle of the ogre himself. He ran up the
steps, with tears falling from his eyes, and crying:

'Oh, you poor, poor people, what a sad fate is yours!'

'What has happened?' asked the ogre, trembling with fright.

'Do you see that troop of horsemen who are riding along the road? They
are sent by the king to kill you!'

'Oh, dear little fox, help us, we implore you!' cried the ogre and his

'Well, I will do what I can,' answered the fox. 'The best place is for
you both to hide in the big oven, and when the soldiers have gone by I
will let you out.'

The ogre and ogress scrambled into the oven as quick as thought, and the
fox banged the door on them; just as he did so the king came up.

'Do us the honour to dismount, your Majesty,' said the fox, bowing low.
'This is the palace of Count Piro!'

'Why it is more splendid than my own!' exclaimed the king, looking round
on all the beautiful things that filled the hall. But why are there no

'His Excellency the Count Piro wished the princess to choose them for
herself,' answered the fox, and the king nodded his approval. He then
rode on, leaving the bridal pair in the castle. But when it was dark and
all was still, the fox crept downstairs and lit the kitchen fire, and
the ogre and his wife were burned to death. The next morning the fox
said to Count Piro:

'Now that you are rich and happy, you have no more need of me; but,
before I go, there is one thing I must ask of you in return: when I die,
promise me that you will give me a magnificent coffin, and bury me with
due honours.'

'Oh, little, little fox, don't talk of dying,' cried the princess,
nearly weeping, for she had taken a great liking to the fox.

After some time the fox thought he would see if the Count Piro was
really grateful to him for all he had done, and went back to the castle,
where he lay down on the door-step, and pretended to be dead. The
princess was just going out for a walk, and directly she saw him lying
there, she burst into tears and fell on her knees beside him.

'My dear little fox, you are not dead,' she wailed; 'you poor, poor
little creature, you shall have the finest coffin in the world!'

'A coffin for an animal?' said Count Piro. 'What nonsense! just take him
by the leg and throw him into the ditch.'

Then the fox sprang up and cried: 'You wretched, thankless beggar; have
you forgotten that you owe all your riches to me?'

Count Piro was frightened when he heard these words, as he thought that
perhaps the fox might have power to take away the castle, and leave him
as poor as when he had nothing to eat but the pears off his tree. So he
tried to soften the fox's anger, saying that he had only spoken in joke,
as he had known quite well that he was not really dead. For the sake
of the princess, the fox let himself be softened, and he lived in the
castle for many years, and played with Count Piro's children. And when
he actually did die, his coffin was made of silver, and Count Piro and
his wife followed him to the grave.

[From Sicilianische Mahrchen.]

The Rogue And The Herdsman

In a tiny cottage near the king's palace there once lived an old man,
his wife, and his son, a very lazy fellow, who would never do a stroke
of work. He could not be got even to look after their one cow, but left
her to look after herself, while he lay on a bank and went to sleep in
the sun. For a long time his father bore with him, hoping that as he
grew older he might gain more sense; but at last the old man's patience
was worn out, and he told his son that he should not stay at house in
idleness, and must go out into the world to seek his fortune.

The young man saw that there was no help for it, and he set out with
a wallet full of food over his shoulder. At length he came to a large
house, at the door of which he knocked.

'What do you want?' asked the old man who opened it. And the youth told
him how his father had turned him out of his house because he was so
lazy and stupid, and he needed shelter for the night.

'That you shall have,' replied the man; 'but to-morrow I shall give you
some work to do, for you must know that I am the chief herdsman of the

The youth made no answer to this. He felt, if he was to be made to work
after all, that he might as well have stayed where he was. But as he did
not see any other way of getting a bed, he went slowly in.

The herdsman's two daughters and their mother were sitting at supper,
and invited him to join them. Nothing more was said about work, and when
the meal was over they all went to bed.

In the morning, when the young man was dressed, the herdsman called to
him and said:

'Now listen, and I will tell you what you have to do.'

'What is it?' asked the youth, sulkily.

'Nothing less than to look after two hundred pigs,' was the reply.

'Oh, I am used to that,' answered the youth.

'Yes; but this time you will have to do it properly,' said the herdsman;
and he took the youth to the place where the pigs were feeding, and told
him to drive them to the woods on the side of the mountain. This the
young man did, but as soon as they reached the outskirts of the mountain
they grew quite wild, and would have run away altogether, had they not
luckily gone towards a narrow ravine, from which the youth easily drove
them home to his father's cottage.

'Where do all these pigs come from, and how did you get them?' asked the
old man in surprise, when his son knocked at the door of the hut he had
left only the day before.

'They belong to the king's chief herdsman,' answered his son. 'He gave
them to me to look after, but I knew I could not do it, so I drove them
straight to you. Now make the best of your good fortune, and kill them
and hang them up at once.'

'What are you talking about?' cried the father, pale with horror. 'We
should certainly both be put to death if I did any such thing.'

'No, no; do as I tell you, and I will get out of it somehow,' replied
the young man. And in the end he had his way. The pigs were killed,
and laid side by side in a row. Then he cut off the tails and tied them
together with a piece of cord, and swinging the bundle over his back,
he returned to the place where they should have been feeding. Here there
was a small swamp, which was just what he wanted, and finding a large
stone, he fastened the rope to it, and sank it in the swamp, after which
he arranged the tails carefully one by one, so that only their points
were seen sticking out of the water. When everything was in order, he
hastened home to his master with such a sorrowful face that the herdsman
saw at once that something dreadful had happened.

'Where are the pigs?' asked he.

'Oh, don't speak of them!' answered the young man; 'I really can hardly
tell you. The moment they got into the field they became quite mad, and
each ran in a different direction. I ran too, hither and thither, but as
fast as I caught one, another was off, till I was in despair. At last,
however, I collected them all and was about to drive them back, when
suddenly they rushed down the hill into the swamp, where they vanished
completely, leaving only the points of their tails, which you can see
for yourself.'

'You have made up that story very well,' replied the herdsman.

'No, it is the real truth; come with me and I'll prove it.' And they
went together to the spot, and there sure enough were the points of
the tails sticking up out of the water. The herdsman laid hold of the
nearest, and pulled at it with all his might, but it was no use, for
the stone and the rope held them all fast. He called to the young man to
help him, but the two did not succeed any better than the one had done.

'Yes, your story was true after all; it is a wonderful thing,' said the
herdsman. 'But I see it is no fault of yours, and I must put up with
my loss as well as I can. Now let us return home, for it is time for

Next morning the herdsman said to the young man: 'I have got some other
work for you to do. To-day you must take a hundred sheep to graze; but
be careful that no harm befalls them.'

'I will do my best,' replied the youth. And he opened the gate of the
fold, where the sheep had been all night, and drove them out into the
meadow. But in a short time they grew as wild as the pigs had done, and
scattered in all directions. The young man could not collect them, try
as he would, and he thought to himself that this was the punishment for
his laziness in refusing to look after his father's one cow.

At last, however, the sheep seemed tired of running about, and then
the youth managed to gather them together, and drove them, as before,
straight to his father's house.

'Whose sheep are these, and what are they doing here?' asked the old man
in wonder, and his son told him. But when the tale was ended the father
shook his head.

'Give up these bad ways and take them back to your master,' said he.

'No, no,' answered the youth; 'I am not so stupid as that! We will kill
them and have them for dinner.'

'You will lose your life if you do,' replied the father.

'Oh, I am not sure of that!' said the son, 'and, anyway, I will have my
will for once.' And he killed all the sheep and laid them on the grass.
But he cut off the head of the ram which always led the flock and had
bells round its horns. This he took back to the place where they should
have been feeding, for here he had noticed a high rock, with a patch of
green grass in the middle and two or three thick bushes growing on the
edge. Up this rock he climbed with great difficulty, and fastened the
ram's head to the bushes with a cord, leaving only the tips of the horns
with the bells visible. As there was a soft breeze blowing, the bushes
to which the head was tied moved gently, and the bells rang. When all
was done to his liking he hastened quickly back to his master.

'Where are the sheep?' asked the herdsman as the young man ran panting
up the steps.

'Oh! don't speak of them,' answered he. 'It is only by a miracle that I
am here myself.'

'Tell me at once what has happened,' said the herdsman sternly.

The youth began to sob, and stammered out: 'I - I hardly know how to tell
you! They - they - they were so - so troublesome - that I could not manage
them at all. They - ran about in - in all directions, and I - I - ran after
them and nearly died of fatigue. Then I heard a - a noise, which I - I
thought was the wind. But - but - it was the sheep, which, be - before my
very eyes, were carried straight up - up into the air. I stood watching
them as if I was turned to stone, but there kept ringing in my ears the
sound of the bells on the ram which led them.'

'That is nothing but a lie from beginning to end,' said the herdsman.

'No, it is as true as that there is a sun in heaven,' answered the young

'Then give me a proof of it,' cried his master.

'Well, come with me,' said the youth. By this time it was evening and
the dusk was falling. The young man brought the herdsman to the foot of
the great rock, but it was so dark you could hardly see. Still the sound
of sheep bells rang softly from above, and the herdsman knew them to be
those he had hung on the horns of his ram.

'Do you hear?' asked the youth.

'Yes, I hear; you have spoken the truth, and I cannot blame you for what
has happened. I must bear the loss as best as I can.'

He turned and went home, followed by the young man, who felt highly
pleased with his own cleverness.

'I should not be surprised if the tasks I set you were too difficult,
and that you were tired of them,' said the herdsman next morning; 'but
to-day I have something quite easy for you to do. You must look after
forty oxen, and be sure you are very careful, for one of them has
gold-tipped horns and hoofs, and the king reckons it among his greatest

The young man drove out the oxen into the meadow, and no sooner had they
got there than, like the sheep and the pigs, they began to scamper in
all directions, the precious bull being the wildest of all. As the youth
stood watching them, not knowing what to do next, it came into his head
that his father's cow was put out to grass at no great distance; and he
forthwith made such a noise that he quite frightened the oxen, who were
easily persuaded to take the path he wished. When they heard the cow

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Online LibraryAndrew LangThe Crimson Fairy Book → online text (page 14 of 21)