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The Little Farmer

There was a certain village, wherein several rich farmers were settled, and only one poor one, who was therefore called "The Little Farmer." He had not even a cow, nor money to buy it, though he and his wife would have been too happy to have had one. One day he said to her, "A good thought has just struck me; our father-in-law, the carver, can make us a calf out of wood and paint it brown, so that it will look like any other; in time perhaps it will grow big and become a cow." This proposal pleased his wife, and the carver was instructed accordingly, and he cut out the calf, painted it as it should be, and so made it that its head was bent down as if eating.

When the next morning the cows were driven out to pasture, the Farmer called the Shepherd in, and said "See, I have here a little calf, but it is so small that it must as yet be carried." The Shepherd said, "Very well," and, taking it under his arm, carried it down to the meadow and set it among the grass. All day the calf stood there as if eating, and the Shepherd said, "It will soon grow big and go alone: only see how it is eating." At evening time, when he wanted to drive his flocks home, he said to the calf, "Since you can stand there to satisfy your hunger, you must also be able to walk upon your four legs, and I shall not carry you home in my arms." The Little Farmer stood before his house-door waiting for his calf, and as the Shepherd drove his herd through the village he asked after it. The Shepherd replied, "It is still standing there eating; it would not listen and come with me." The Farmer exclaimed, "Eh, what! I must have my calf!" and so they both went together down to the meadow, but some one had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The Shepherd said, "Perhaps it has run away itself;" but the Farmer replied, "Not so, that won't do for me;" and dragging him before the mayor, he was condemned for his negligence to give the Little Farmer a cow in the place of the lost calf.

Now the Farmer and his wife possessed the long-desired cow, and were very glad; but having no fodder they could give her nothing to eat, so that very soon they were obliged to kill her. The flesh they salted down, and the skin the Little Farmer took to the next town to sell, to buy another calf with what he got for it. On the way he passed a mill where a raven was sitting with a broken wing, and out of compassion he took the bird up and wrapped it in the skin he was carrying. But the weather being just then very bad, a great storm of wind and rain falling, he was unable to go further, and turning into the mill begged for shelter. The Miller's wife was at home alone, and said to the Farmer, "Lie down on that straw," and gave him a piece of bread and cheese. The Farmer ate it and laid down, with his skin near him, and the MIller's wife thought he was asleep. Presently in came the parson whom she received well, and invited to sup with her; but the Farmer, when he heard talk of the feast, was vexed that he should have been treated only to bread and cheese. So the woman went down into the cellar and brought up four dishes, roast meat, salad, boiled meat, and wine. As they were sitting down to eat there was a knock outside, and the woman exclaimed, "Oh, gracious! There is my husband!" In a great hurry she stuck the roast meat into the oven, the wine under the pillow, the salad upon the bed, and the boiled meat under it, and the parson stepped into a closet where she kept the linen. This done, she let in her husband and said, "God be praised, you are returned again! what weather it is, as if the world were coming to an end!"

The Miller remarked the man lying on the straw, and asked what the fellow did there. His wife said, "Ah! the poor fellow came in the wind and rain and begged for shelter, so I gave him some bread and cheese, and showed him the straw."

The husband said he had no objection, but bade her bring him quickly something to eat. The wife said, "I have nothing but bread and cheese," and her husband told her with that he should be contented, and asked the Farmer to come and share his meal. The Farmer did not let himself be twice asked, but got up and ate away. Presently the Miller remarked the skin lying upon the ground, in which was the raven, and asked, "What have you there?" The Farmer replied, "I have a truth-teller therein." "Can it tell me the truth too?" inquired the Miller.

"Why not?" said the other, "but he will only say four things, and the fifth he keeps to himself." The Miller was curious and wished to hear it speak, and the Farmer squeezed the raven's head so that it squeaked out. The Miller then asked, "What did he say?" and the Farmer replied, "The first is, under the pillow lies wine." "That is a rare tell-tale!" cried the Miller, and he went and found the wine. "Now again," said he. The Farmer made the raven croak again, and said, "Secondly, he declares there is roast meat in the oven." "That is a good telltale!" again cried the Miller, and, opening the oven, he took out the roast meat. Then the Farmer made the raven croak again and said, "For the third thing, he declares there is salad on the bed."

"That is a good telltale!" cried the Miller, and went and found the salad. Then the Farmer made his bird croak once more, and said, "For the fourth thing, he declares there is boiled meat under the bed."

"That is a capital telltale!" cried the Miller, while he went and found as it said.

The worthy pair now sat down together at the table, but the Miller's wife felt terribly anxious, and went to bed, taking all the keys with her. The Miller was very anxious to know the fifth thing, but the man said, "First let us eat quietly these four things, for the other is somewhat dreadful."

After they had finished their meal, the Miller bargained as to how much he should give for the fifth thing, and at last he agreed for three hundred dollars. Then the farmer once more made the raven croak, and when the Miller asked what it said, he told him, "He declares that in the cupboard where the linen is there is an evil spirit."

The Miller said, "The evil spirit must walk out!" and tried the door, but it was locked, and the woman had to give up the key to the Farmer, who unlocked it. The parson at once bolted out and ran out of the house, while the Miller said, "Ah! I saw the black fellow, that was all right." Soon they went to sleep, but at daybreak the Farmer took his three hundred dollars and made himself scarce.

The Farmer was now quite rich at home, and built himself a fine house, so that his fellows said, "The Little Farmer has certainly found the golden snow, of which he has brought away a basketful," and they summoned him before the mayor, that he might be made to say whence his riches came. The man replied, "I have sold my cow's skin in the city for three hundred dollars." And as soon as the others heard this, they desired also to make a similar profit. The farmers ran home, killed all their cows, and, taking the skins off, took them to the city to sell them for so good a price. The Mayor, however, said, "My maid must go first," and when she arrived at the city she went to the merchant, but he gave her only three dollars for her skin. And when the rest came he would not give them so much, saying, "What shall I do with all these skins?"

The farmers were much vexed at being outwitted by their poor neighbor, and, bent on revenge, they complained to the Mayor of his deceit. The innocent Little Farmer was condemned to death unanimously, and was to be rolled in a cask full of holes into the sea. He was led away, and a priest sent for who should say for him the mass for the dead. Every one else was obliged to remove to a distance, and when the Farmer looked at the priest he recognized the parson who was with the Miller's wife. So he said to him, "I have delivered you out of the cupboard, now deliver me from this cask." Just at that moment the Shepherd passed by with a flock of sheep, and the Farmer, knowing that for a long time the man had desired to be mayor, cried out with all his might, "No, no! I will not do it, if all the world asked me I would not be it! No! I will not."

When the Shepherd heard this he came up and said, "What are you doing here? What will you not do?"

The Farmer replied, "They will make me mayor if I keep in this cask; but, no, I will not be here!"

"Oh," said the Shepherd, "if nothing more is wanting to be mayor, I am willing to put myself in the cask."

"Yes, you will be mayor if you do that," said the Farmer; and getting out of the cask the other got in, and the Farmer nailed the lid down again. Now he took the Shepherd's flock and drove it away, while the parson went to the judge and told him he had said the prayers for the dead. Then they went and rolled the cask down to the water; and while it rolled the Shepherd called out, "Yes, I should like to be mayor!" They thought it was the Little Farmer who spoke, and saying, "Yes, we mean it; only you must first go below there;" and they sent the cask right into the sea.

That done, the farmers returned home; and as they came into the village, so came also the Little Farmer driving a flock of sheep quietly and cheerfully. The sight astounded the others, and they asked, "Whence comest thou? dost thou come out of the water?" "Certainly," answered he, "I sank deeper and deeper till I got to the bottom, where I pushed up the head of the cask, and, getting out, there were beautiful meadows upon which many lambs were pasturing, and I brought this flock of them up with me."

"Are there any more?" inquired the farmers. "Oh, yes!" replied he, "more than you know what to do with."

Then the farmers agreed that they would go and each fetch up a flock for himself, but the Mayor said, "I must go first." So they went together down to the water, and there happened to be a fine blue sky with plenty of fleecy clouds over it, which were mirrored in the water and looked like little lambs. The farmers called one to another, "Look there! we can see the sheep already on the ground below the water!" and the Mayor, pressing quite forward, said "I will go first and look about me, and see if it is a good place, and then call you."

So saying, he jumped in plump, and as he splashed the water about, the others thought he was calling , "Come along!" and so one after another the whole assemblage plunged in in a grand hurry.

Thus was the whole village cleared out, and "the Little Farmer," as their only heir, became a very rich man.


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