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The Little Peasant

There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really richpeasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the li...

The Little Peasant

There was a certain village wherein no one lived but really richpeasants, and just one poor one, whom they called the little peasant.He had not even so much as a cow, and still less money to buy one, andyet he and his wife did so wish to have one. One day he said to her:«Listen, I have a good idea, there is our gossip the carpenter, heshall make us a wooden calf, and paint it brown, so that it looks likeany other, and in time it will certainly get big and be a cow.» thewoman also liked the idea, and their gossip the carpenter cut andplaned the calf, and painted it as it ought to be, and made it withits head hanging down as if it were eating.

Next morning when the cows were being driven out, the littlepeasant called the cow-herd in and said: «Look, I have a little calfthere, but it is still small and has to be carried.» The cow-herd said:«All right,» and took it in his arms and carried it to the pasture,and set it among the grass. The little calf always remained standinglike one which was eating, and the cow-herd said: «It will soon run byitself, just look how it eats already!» At night when he was going todrive the herd home again, he said to the calf: «If you can stand thereand eat your fill, you can also go on your four legs; I don’t care todrag you home again in my arms.» But the little peasant stood at hisdoor, and waited for his little calf, and when the cow-herd drove thecows through the village, and the calf was missing, he inquired where itwas. The cow-herd answered: «It is still standing out there eating. Itwould not stop and come with us.» But the little peasant said: «Oh, butI must have my beast back again.» Then they went back to the meadowtogether, but someone had stolen the calf, and it was gone. The cow-herdsaid: «It must have run away.» The peasant, however, said: «Don’t tellme that,» and led the cow-herd before the mayor, who for hiscarelessness condemned him to give the peasant a cow for the calfwhich had run away.

And now the little peasant and his wife had the cow for which they hadso long wished, and they were heartily glad, but they had no food forit, and could give it nothing to eat, so it soon had to be killed. Theysalted the flesh, and the peasant went into the town and wanted tosell the skin there, so that he might buy a new calf with theproceeds. On the way he passed by a mill, and there sat a raven withbroken wings, and out of pity he took him and wrapped him in the skin.But as the weather grew so bad and there was a storm of rain and wind,he could go no farther, and turned back to the mill and begged forshelter. The miller’s wife was alone in the house, and said to thepeasant: «Lay yourself on the straw there,» and gave him a slice ofbread and cheese. The peasant ate it, and lay down with his skinbeside him, and the woman thought: «He is tired and has gone to sleep.’In the meantime came the parson; the miller’s wife received him well,and said: «My husband is out, so we will have a feast.» The peasantlistened, and when he heard them talk about feasting he was vexed thathe had been forced to make shift with a slice of bread and cheese. Thenthe woman served up four different things, roast meat, salad, cakes, andwine.

Just as they were about to sit down and eat, there was a knockingoutside. The woman said: «Oh, heavens! It is my husband!» she quicklyhid the roast meat inside the tiled stove, the wine under the pillow,the salad on the bed, the cakes under it, and the parson in the closeton the porch. Then she opened the door for her husband, and said:«Thank heaven, you are back again! There is such a storm, it looks asif the world were coming to an end.» The miller saw the peasant lyingon the straw, and asked, «What is that fellow doing there?» «Ah,» saidthe wife, «the poor knave came in the storm and rain, and begged forshelter, so I gave him a bit of bread and cheese, and showed himwhere the straw was.» The man said: «I have no objection, but bequick and get me something to eat.» The woman said: «But I have nothingbut bread and cheese.» «I am contented with anything,» replied thehusband, «so far as I am concerned, bread and cheese will do,» andlooked at the peasant and said: «Come and eat some more with me.» Thepeasant did not require to be invited twice, but got up and ate.After this the miller saw the skin in which the raven was, lying on theground, and asked: «What have you there?» The peasant answered:«I have a soothsayer inside it.» «Can he foretell anything to me?’said the miller. «Why not?» answered the peasant: «but he only saysfour things, and the fifth he keeps to himself.» The miller wascurious, and said: «Let him foretell something for once.» Then thepeasant pinched the raven’s head, so that he croaked and made a noiselike krr, krr. The miller said: «What did he say?» The peasantanswered: «In the first place, he says that there is some wine hiddenunder the pillow.» «Bless me!» cried the miller, and went there andfound the wine. «Now go on,» said he. The peasant made the raven croakagain, and said: «In the second place, he says that there is someroast meat in the tiled stove.» «Upon my word!» cried the miller, andwent thither, and found the roast meat. The peasant made theraven prophesy still more, and said: «Thirdly, he says that there issome salad on the bed.» «That would be a fine thing!» cried themiller, and went there and found the salad. At last the peasant pinchedthe raven once more till he croaked, and said: «Fourthly, he says thatthere are some cakes under the bed.» «That would be a fine thing!’cried the miller, and looked there, and found the cakes.

And now the two sat down to the table together, but the miller’s wifewas frightened to death, and went to bed and took all the keys withher. The miller would have liked much to know the fifth, but thelittle peasant said: «First, we will quickly eat the four things,for the fifth is something bad.» So they ate, and after that theybargained how much the miller was to give for the fifth prophecy,until they agreed on three hundred talers. Then the peasant once morepinched the raven’s head till he croaked loudly. The miller asked:«What did he say?» The peasant replied: «He says that the Devil ishiding outside there in the closet on the porch.» The miller said:«The Devil must go out,» and opened the house-door; then the womanwas forced to give up the keys, and the peasant unlocked the closet.The parson ran out as fast as he could, and the miller said: «Itwas true; I saw the black rascal with my own eyes.» The peasant,however, made off next morning by daybreak with the three hundredtalers.

At home the small peasant gradually launched out; he built abeautiful house, and the peasants said: «The small peasant has certainlybeen to the place where golden snow falls, and people carry the goldhome in shovels.» Then the small peasant was brought before the mayor,and bidden to say from whence his wealth came. He answered: «I soldmy cow’s skin in the town, for three hundred talers.» When thepeasants heard that, they too wished to enjoy this great profit, andran home, killed all their cows, and stripped off their skins inorder to sell them in the town to the greatest advantage. The mayor,however, said: «But my servant must go first.» When she came to themerchant in the town, he did not give her more than two talers for askin, and when the others came, he did not give them so much, and said:«What can I do with all these skins?»

Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should havethus outwitted them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused himof this treachery before the major. The innocent little peasant wasunanimously sentenced to death, and was to be rolled into the water,in a barrel pierced full of holes. He was led forth, and a priest wasbrought who was to say a mass for his soul. The others were allobliged to retire to a distance, and when the peasant looked at thepriest, he recognized the man who had been with the miller’s wife. Hesaid to him: «I set you free from the closet, set me free from thebarrel.» At this same moment up came, with a flock of sheep, the veryshepherd whom the peasant knew had long been wishing to be mayor, sohe cried with all his might: «No, I will not do it; if the whole worldinsists on it, I will not do it!» The shepherd hearing that, came upto him, and asked: «What are you about? What is it that you will notdo?» The peasant said: «They want to make me mayor, if I will but putmyself in the barrel, but I will not do it.» The shepherd said: «Ifnothing more than that is needful in order to be mayor, I would getinto the barrel at once.» The peasant said: «If you will get in, youwill be mayor.» The shepherd was willing, and got in, and the peasantshut the top down on him; then he took the shepherd’s flock forhimself, and drove it away. The parson went to the crowd, anddeclared that the mass had been said. Then they came and rolled thebarrel towards the water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherdcried: «I am quite willing to be mayor.» They believed no otherwisethan that it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered: «Thatis what we intend, but first you shall look about you a little downbelow there,» and they rolled the barrel down into the water.

After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering thevillage, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a flock ofsheep and looking quite contented. Then the peasants wereastonished, and said: «Peasant, from whence do you come? Have you comeout of the water?» «Yes, truly,» replied the peasant, «I sank deep,deep down, until at last I got to the bottom; I pushed the bottom outof the barrel, and crept out, and there were pretty meadows on whicha number of lambs were feeding, and from thence I brought this flockaway with me.» Said the peasants: «Are there any more there?» «Oh,yes,» said he, «more than I could want.» Then the peasants made uptheir minds that they too would fetch some sheep for themselves, aflock apiece, but the mayor said: «I come first.» So they went to thewater together, and just then there were some of the small fleecyclouds in the blue sky, which are called little lambs, and they werereflected in the water, whereupon the peasants cried: «We already seethe sheep down below!» The mayor pressed forward and said: «I will godown first, and look about me, and if things promise well I’ll callyou.» So he jumped in; splash! went the water; it sounded as if he werecalling them, and the whole crowd plunged in after him as one man.Then the entire village was dead, and the small peasant, as sole heir,became a rich man.

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