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Clever Elsie

There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie.And when she had grown up her father said: «We will ...

Clever Elsie

There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie.And when she had grown up her father said: «We will get her married.’«Yes,» said the mother, «if only someone would come who would haveher.» At length a man came from a distance and wooed her, who wascalled Hans; but he stipulated that Clever Elsie should be reallysmart. «Oh,» said the father, «she has plenty of good sense’; and themother said: «Oh, she can see the wind coming up the street, and hearthe flies coughing.» «Well,» said Hans, «if she is not really smart, Iwon’t have her.» When they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, themother said: «Elsie, go into the cellar and fetch some beer.» ThenClever Elsie took the pitcher from the wall, went into the cellar, andtapped the lid briskly as she went, so that the time might notappear long. When she was below she fetched herself a chair, andset it before the barrel so that she had no need to stoop, and did nothurt her back or do herself any unexpected injury. Then she placed thecan before her, and turned the tap, and while the beer was running shewould not let her eyes be idle, but looked up at the wall, and aftermuch peering here and there, saw a pick-axe exactly above her, which themasons had accidentally left there.

Then Clever Elsie began to weep and said: «If I get Hans, and we havea child, and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar here todraw beer, then the pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.» Thenshe sat and wept and screamed with all the strength of her body,over the misfortune which lay before her. Those upstairs waited for thedrink, but Clever Elsie still did not come. Then the woman said to theservant: «Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is.» Themaid went and found her sitting in front of the barrel, screamingloudly. «Elsie why do you weep?» asked the maid. «Ah,» she answered,«have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and hegrows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fallon his head, and kill him.» Then said the maid: «What a clever Elsie wehave!» and sat down beside her and began loudly to weep over themisfortune. After a while, as the maid did not come back, and thoseupstairs were thirsty for the beer, the man said to the boy: «Just godown into the cellar and see where Elsie and the girl are.» The boywent down, and there sat Clever Elsie and the girl both weepingtogether. Then he asked: «Why are you weeping?» «Ah,» said Elsie, «haveI not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and hegrows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will fall on hishead and kill him.» Then said the boy: «What a clever Elsie we have!’and sat down by her, and likewise began to howl loudly. Upstairs theywaited for the boy, but as he still did not return, the man said to thewoman: «Just go down into the cellar and see where Elsie is!» The womanwent down, and found all three in the midst of their lamentations, andinquired what was the cause; then Elsie told her also that her futurechild was to be killed by the pick-axe, when it grew big and had todraw beer, and the pick-axe fell down. Then said the mother likewise:«What a clever Elsie we have!» and sat down and wept with them. The manupstairs waited a short time, but as his wife did not come back and histhirst grew ever greater, he said: «I must go into the cellar myselfand see where Elsie is.» But when he got into the cellar, and they wereall sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and that Elsie’schild was the cause, and the Elsie might perhaps bring one into theworld some day, and that he might be killed by the pick-axe, if heshould happen to be sitting beneath it, drawing beer just at the verytime when it fell down, he cried: «Oh, what a clever Elsie!» and satdown, and likewise wept with them. The bridegroom stayed upstairsalone for along time; then as no one would come back he thought: «Theymust be waiting for me below: I too must go there and see what they areabout.» When he got down, the five of them were sitting screaming andlamenting quite piteously, each out-doing the other. «What misfortunehas happened then?» asked he. «Ah, dear Hans,» said Elsie, «if we marryeach other and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send himhere to draw something to drink, then the pick-axe which has beenleft up there might dash his brains out if it were to fall down, sohave we not reason to weep?» «Come,» said Hans, «more understandingthan that is not needed for my household, as you are such a cleverElsie, I will have you,» and seized her hand, took her upstairs withhim, and married her.

After Hans had had her some time, he said: «Wife, I am going out towork and earn some money for us; go into the field and cut the corn thatwe may have some bread.» «Yes, dear Hans, I will do that.» After Hanshad gone away, she cooked herself some good broth and took it into thefield with her. When she came to the field she said to herself:«What shall I do; shall I cut first, or shall I eat first? Oh, I willeat first.» Then she drank her cup of broth and when she was fullysatisfied, she once more said: «What shall I do? Shall I cut first, orshall I sleep first? I will sleep first.» Then she lay down among thecorn and fell asleep. Hans had been at home for a long time, but Elsiedid not come; then said he: «What a clever Elsie I have; she is soindustrious that she does not even come home to eat.» But when eveningcame and she still stayed away, Hans went out to see what she had cut,but nothing was cut, and she was lying among the corn asleep. Then Hanshastened home and brought a fowler’s net with little bells and hung itround about her, and she still went on sleeping. Then he ran home,shut the house-door, and sat down in his chair and worked. Atlength, when it was quite dark, Clever Elsie awoke and when she got upthere was a jingling all round about her, and the bells rang at eachstep which she took. Then she was alarmed, and became uncertainwhether she really was Clever Elsie or not, and said: «Is it I, or isit not I?» But she knew not what answer to make to this, and stood for atime in doubt; at length she thought: «I will go home and ask if it beI, or if it be not I, they will be sure to know.» She ran to the doorof her own house, but it was shut; then she knocked at the window andcried: «Hans, is Elsie within?» «Yes,» answered Hans, «she is within.’Hereupon she was terrified, and said: «Ah, heavens! Then it is not I,’and went to another door; but when the people heard the jingling ofthe bells they would not open it, and she could get in nowhere. Thenshe ran out of the village, and no one has seen her since.

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