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Hans In Luck

Some men are born to good luck: all they do or try to do comesright—all that falls to them is so much gain—all their gee...

Hans In Luck

Some men are born to good luck: all they do or try to do comesright—all that falls to them is so much gain—all their geese areswans—all their cards are trumps—toss them which way you will, theywill always, like poor puss, alight upon their legs, and only move onso much the faster. The world may very likely not always thinkof them as they think of themselves, but what care they for theworld? what can it know about the matter?

One of these lucky beings was neighbour Hans. Seven long years hehad worked hard for his master. At last he said, «Master, my time isup; I must go home and see my poor mother once more: so pray pay me mywages and let me go.» And the master said, «You have been afaithful and good servant, Hans, so your pay shall be handsome.» Thenhe gave him a lump of silver as big as his head.

Hans took out his pocket-handkerchief, put the piece of silver intoit, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off on his road homewards.As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man camein sight, trotting gaily along on a capital horse. «Ah!» said Hansaloud, «what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits aseasy and happy as if he was at home, in the chair by his fireside;he trips against no stones, saves shoe-leather, and gets on he hardlyknows how.» Hans did not speak so softly but the horseman heard itall, and said, «Well, friend, why do you go on foot then?» «Ah!» saidhe, «I have this load to carry: to be sure it is silver, but it is soheavy that I can’t hold up my head, and you must know it hurts myshoulder sadly.» «What do you say of making an exchange?» said thehorseman. «I will give you my horse, and you shall give me thesilver; which will save you a great deal of trouble in carryingsuch a heavy load about with you.» «With all my heart,» said Hans:«but as you are so kind to me, I must tell you one thing—you willhave a weary task to draw that silver about with you.» However,the horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him thebridle into one hand and the whip into the other, and said, «When youwant to go very fast, smack your lips loudly together, and cry “Jip!”»

Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, drew himself up, squaredhis elbows, turned out his toes, cracked his whip, and rode merrilyoff, one minute whistling a merry tune, and another singing,

«No care and no sorrow, A fig for the morrow! We’ll laugh and be merry, Sing neigh down derry!»

After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, sohe smacked his lips and cried «Jip!» Away went the horse full gallop;and before Hans knew what he was about, he was thrown off, and lay onhis back by the road-side. His horse would have ran off, if ashepherd who was coming by, driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hanssoon came to himself, and got upon his legs again, sadly vexed, andsaid to the shepherd, «This riding is no joke, when a man has the luckto get upon a beast like this that stumbles and flings him off as ifit would break his neck. However, I’m off now once for all: I likeyour cow now a great deal better than this smart beast that played methis trick, and has spoiled my best coat, you see, in this puddle;which, by the by, smells not very like a nosegay. One can walk along atone’s leisure behind that cow—keep good company, and have milk, butter,and cheese, every day, into the bargain. What would I give to havesuch a prize!» «Well,» said the shepherd, «if you are so fond of her, Iwill change my cow for your horse; I like to do good to myneighbours, even though I lose by it myself.» «Done!» said Hans,merrily. «What a noble heart that good man has!» thought he. Thenthe shepherd jumped upon the horse, wished Hans and the cow goodmorning, and away he rode.

Hans brushed his coat, wiped his face and hands, rested a while, andthen drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very luckyone. «If I have only a piece of bread (and I certainly shall always beable to get that), I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheesewith it; and when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk:and what can I wish for more?» When he came to an inn, he halted, ateup all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer.When he had rested himself he set off again, driving his cow towards hismother’s village. But the heat grew greater as soon as noon came on,till at last, as he found himself on a wide heath that would take himmore than an hour to cross, he began to be so hot and parched that histongue clave to the roof of his mouth. «I can find a cure for this,’thought he; «now I will milk my cow and quench my thirst’: so he tiedher to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk into; butnot a drop was to be had. Who would have thought that this cow, whichwas to bring him milk and butter and cheese, was all that time utterlydry? Hans had not thought of looking to that.

While he was trying his luck in milking, and managing the mattervery clumsily, the uneasy beast began to think him very troublesome;and at last gave him such a kick on the head as knocked him down; andthere he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher soon came by,driving a pig in a wheelbarrow. «What is the matter with you, my man?’said the butcher, as he helped him up. Hans told him what had happened,how he was dry, and wanted to milk his cow, but found the cow was drytoo. Then the butcher gave him a flask of ale, saying, «There, drinkand refresh yourself; your cow will give you no milk: don’t you seeshe is an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house?» «Alas,alas!» said Hans, «who would have thought it? What a shame to take myhorse, and give me only a dry cow! If I kill her, what will she be goodfor? I hate cow-beef; it is not tender enough for me. If it were apig now—like that fat gentleman you are driving along at hisease—one could do something with it; it would at any rate makesausages.» «Well,» said the butcher, «I don’t like to say no, whenone is asked to do a kind, neighbourly thing. To please you I willchange, and give you my fine fat pig for the cow.» «Heaven reward youfor your kindness and self-denial!» said Hans, as he gave the butcherthe cow; and taking the pig off the wheel-barrow, drove it away, holdingit by the string that was tied to its leg.

So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him: he had metwith some misfortunes, to be sure; but he was now well repaid forall. How could it be otherwise with such a travelling companion as hehad at last got?

The next man he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose.The countryman stopped to ask what was o’clock; this led to furtherchat; and Hans told him all his luck, how he had so many good bargains,and how all the world went gay and smiling with him. The countrymanthan began to tell his tale, and said he was going to take thegoose to a christening. «Feel,» said he, «how heavy it is, and yetit is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it will findplenty of fat upon it, it has lived so well!» «You’re right,» saidHans, as he weighed it in his hand; «but if you talk of fat, my pig isno trifle.» Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook hishead. «Hark ye!» said he, «my worthy friend, you seem a good sort offellow, so I can’t help doing you a kind turn. Your pig may get youinto a scrape. In the village I just came from, the squire has had a pigstolen out of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you thatyou had got the squire’s pig. If you have, and they catch you, it willbe a bad job for you. The least they will do will be to throw youinto the horse-pond. Can you swim?»

Poor Hans was sadly frightened. «Good man,» cried he, «pray get me outof this scrape. I know nothing of where the pig was either bred or born;but he may have been the squire’s for aught I can tell: you know thiscountry better than I do, take my pig and give me the goose.» «Iought to have something into the bargain,» said the countryman; «give afat goose for a pig, indeed! ’Tis not everyone would do so much for youas that. However, I will not be hard upon you, as you are introuble.» Then he took the string in his hand, and drove off the pigby a side path; while Hans went on the way homewards free from care.«After all,» thought he, «that chap is pretty well taken in. I don’tcare whose pig it is, but wherever it came from it has been a verygood friend to me. I have much the best of the bargain. First therewill be a capital roast; then the fat will find me in goose-grease forsix months; and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. Iwill put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundlywithout rocking. How happy my mother will be! Talk of a pig, indeed!Give me a fine fat goose.»

As he came to the next village, he saw a scissor-grinder with hiswheel, working and singing,

«O’er hill and o’er dale So happy I roam, Work light and live well, All the world is my home; Then who so blythe, so merry as I?»

Hans stood looking on for a while, and at last said, «You must bewell off, master grinder! you seem so happy at your work.» «Yes,’said the other, «mine is a golden trade; a good grinder never putshis hand into his pocket without finding money in it—but wheredid you get that beautiful goose?» «I did not buy it, I gave a pigfor it.» «And where did you get the pig?» «I gave a cow for it.» «Andthe cow?» «I gave a horse for it.» «And the horse?» «I gave a lump ofsilver as big as my head for it.» «And the silver?» «Oh! I worked hardfor that seven long years.» «You have thriven well in the worldhitherto,» said the grinder, «now if you could find money in yourpocket whenever you put your hand in it, your fortune would be made.’«Very true: but how is that to be managed?» «How? Why, you must turngrinder like myself,» said the other; «you only want a grindstone; therest will come of itself. Here is one that is but little the worse forwear: I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it—will youbuy?» «How can you ask?» said Hans; «I should be the happiest man inthe world, if I could have money whenever I put my hand in mypocket: what could I want more? there’s the goose.» «Now,» saidthe grinder, as he gave him a common rough stone that lay by his side,«this is a most capital stone; do but work it well enough, and you canmake an old nail cut with it.»

Hans took the stone, and went his way with a light heart: hiseyes sparkled for joy, and he said to himself, «Surely I must have beenborn in a lucky hour; everything I could want or wish for comes ofitself. People are so kind; they seem really to think I do them afavour in letting them make me rich, and giving me good bargains.»

Meantime he began to be tired, and hungry too, for he had given awayhis last penny in his joy at getting the cow.

At last he could go no farther, for the stone tired him sadly: andhe dragged himself to the side of a river, that he might take adrink of water, and rest a while. So he laid the stone carefully by hisside on the bank: but, as he stooped down to drink, he forgot it, pushedit a little, and down it rolled, plump into the stream.

For a while he watched it sinking in the deep clear water; then sprangup and danced for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked Heaven,with tears in his eyes, for its kindness in taking away his onlyplague, the ugly heavy stone.

«How happy am I!» cried he; «nobody was ever so lucky as I.» Then uphe got with a light heart, free from all his troubles, and walked ontill he reached his mother’s house, and told her how very easy theroad to good luck was.

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