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Clever Alice

Once upon a time there was a man who had a daughter who was called "Clever Alice;" and when she was grown up, her father said, "We must see about her marrying." "Yes," replied the mother, "when one comes who may be worthy of her."

At last a certain youth, by name Hans, came from a distance to make a proposal for her, but he put in one condition, that the Clever Alice should also be very prudent. "Oh," said her father, "she has got a head full of brains;" and the mother added, "Ah, she can see the wind blow up the street, and hear the flies cough!"

"Very well," replied Hans; "but if she is not very prudent, I will not have her." Soon afterwards they sat down to dinner, and her mother said, "Alice, go down into the cellar and draw some beer."

So Clever Alice took the jug down from the wall, and went into the cellar, jerking the lid up and down on her way to pass away the time. As soon as she got downstairs, she drew a stool and placed it before the cask, in order that she might not have to stoop, whereby she might do some injury to her back, and give it an undesirable bend. Then she placed the can before her and turned the tap, and while the beer was running, as she did not wish her eyes to be idle, she looked about upon the wall above and below, and presently perceived, after much peeping into this and that corner, a hatchet, which the bricklayers had left behind sticking out of the ceiling right above her. At the sight of this the Clever Alice began to cry, saying, "Oh, if I marry Hans, and we have a child, and he grows up, and we send him into the cellar to draw beer, the hatchet will fall upon his head and kill him;" and so saying, she sat there weeping with all her might over the impending misfortune.

Meanwhile the good folks upstairs were waiting for the beer, but as Clever Alice did not come, her mother told the maid to go down and see what she was stopping for. The maid went down into the cellar, and found Alice sitting before the cask crying heartily, and she asked, "Alice, what are you weeping about?" "Ah!" she replied, "have I not cause? If I marry Hans, and we have a child, and he grow up, and we send him here to draw beer, that hatchet will fall upon his head and kill him."

"Oh," said the maid, "what a clever Alice we have!" And sitting down, she began to weep too for the misfortune that was to happen.

After awhile, and the maid did not return, the good folks above began to feel very thirsty; and so the husband told the boy to go down into the cellar, and see what had become of Alice and the maid. The boy went down, and there sat Clever Alice and the maid both crying, so he asked the reason; and Alice told him the same tale of the hatchet that was to fall on her child as she had told the maid. When she had finished, the boy exclaimed, "What a clever Alice we have!" and fell weeping and howling with the others.

Upstairs they were still waiting, and the husband said, when the boy did not return, "Do you go down, wife, into the cellar and see why Alice stops." So she went down, and finding all three sitting there crying, asked the reason, and Alice told her about the hatchet which must inevitably fall upon the head of her son. Then the mother likewise exclaimed, "Oh, what a clever Alice we have!" and, sitting down, began to weep with the others. Meanwhile the husband waited for his wife's return, but at last he felt so very thirsty that he said, "I must go myself down into the cellar and see what Alice stops for." As soon as he entered the cellar, there he found the four sitting and crying together, an when he heard the reason, he also exclaimed, "Oh, what a clever Alice we have!" and sat down to cry with the others. All this time the bridegroom above sat waiting, but when nobody returned, he thought they must be waiting for him, and so he went down to see what was the matter. When he entered, there sat the five crying and groaning, each one in a louder key than his neighbor. "What misfortune has happened?" he asked. "Ah, dear Hans," cried Alice, "if we should marry one another, and have a child, and he grow up, and we perhaps send him down here to tap the beer, the hatchet which has been left sticking there may fall on his head, and so kill him; and do you not think that enough to weep about?"

"Now," said Hans, "more prudence than this is not necessary for my housekeeping; because you are such a clever Alice I will have you for my wife." And, taking her hand, he led her home and celebrated the wedding directly.

After they had been married a little while, Hans said one morning, "Wife, I will go out to work and earn some money; do you go into the field and gather some corn wherewith to make bread."

"Yes," she answered, "I will do so, dear Hans."

And when he was gone, she cooked herself a nice mess of pottage, to take with her. As she came to the field, she said to herself, "What shall I do? Shall I cut first, or eat first? Ay, I will eat first!" Then she ate up the contents of her pot, and when it was finished, she thought to herself, "Now, shall I reap first, or sleep first? Well, I think I will have a nap!" and so she laid herself down amongst the corn, and went to sleep. Meanwhile Hans returned home, but Alice did not come, and so he said, "Oh what a prudent Alice I have, she is so industrious that she does not even come home to eat anything." By and by, however, evening came on, and still she did not return; so Hans went out o see how much she had reaped; but, behold nothing at all, and there lay Alice fast asleep among the corn. So home he ran very fast, and brought a net with little bells hanging on it, which he threw over her head while she still slept on. When he had done this he went back again and shut to the house-door, and seating himself on his stool, began working very industriously.

At last, when it was quite dark, the Clever Alice awoke, and as soon as she stood up the net fell all over her hair, and the bells jingled at every step she took. This quite frightened her, and she began to doubt whether she were really Clever Alice or no, and said to herself, "Am I she, or am I not? This question she could not answer, and she stood still a long time considering. At last she thought she would go home and ask whether she were really herself — supposing they would be able to tell. When she came to the house-door it was shut; so she tapped at the window, and asked, "Hans, is Alice within?" "Yes," he replied, "she is." Now she was really terrified, and exclaiming, "Ah, heaven, then I am not Alice!" She ran up to another house; but as soon as the folks within heard the jingling of the bells they would not open their doors and so nobody would receive her. Then she ran straight away from the village, and no one has ever seen her since.


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