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The Miser In The Bush

A farmer had a faithful and diligent servant, who had worked hard forhim three years, without having been paid any wages...

The Miser In The Bush

A farmer had a faithful and diligent servant, who had worked hard forhim three years, without having been paid any wages. At last it cameinto the man’s head that he would not go on thus without pay anylonger; so he went to his master, and said, «I have worked hard for youa long time, I will trust to you to give me what I deserve to have formy trouble.» The farmer was a sad miser, and knew that his man was verysimple-hearted; so he took out threepence, and gave him for everyyear’s service a penny. The poor fellow thought it was a great deal ofmoney to have, and said to himself, «Why should I work hard, and livehere on bad fare any longer? I can now travel into the wide world, andmake myself merry.» With that he put his money into his purse, and setout, roaming over hill and valley.

As he jogged along over the fields, singing and dancing, a littledwarf met him, and asked him what made him so merry. «Why, what shouldmake me down-hearted?» said he; «I am sound in health and rich inpurse, what should I care for? I have saved up my three years’earnings and have it all safe in my pocket.» «How much may it cometo?» said the little man. «Full threepence,» replied the countryman. «Iwish you would give them to me,» said the other; «I am very poor.’Then the man pitied him, and gave him all he had; and the little dwarfsaid in return, «As you have such a kind honest heart, I will grantyou three wishes—one for every penny; so choose whatever you like.’Then the countryman rejoiced at his good luck, and said, «I like manythings better than money: first, I will have a bow that will bring downeverything I shoot at; secondly, a fiddle that will set everyonedancing that hears me play upon it; and thirdly, I should like thateveryone should grant what I ask.» The dwarf said he should have histhree wishes; so he gave him the bow and fiddle, and went his way.

Our honest friend journeyed on his way too; and if he was merry before,he was now ten times more so. He had not gone far before he met an oldmiser: close by them stood a tree, and on the topmost twig sat a thrushsinging away most joyfully. «Oh, what a pretty bird!» said the miser;«I would give a great deal of money to have such a one.» «If that’sall,» said the countryman, «I will soon bring it down.» Then he took uphis bow, and down fell the thrush into the bushes at the foot of thetree. The miser crept into the bush to find it; but directly he hadgot into the middle, his companion took up his fiddle and played away,and the miser began to dance and spring about, capering higher andhigher in the air. The thorns soon began to tear his clothes till theyall hung in rags about him, and he himself was all scratched andwounded, so that the blood ran down. «Oh, for heaven’s sake!» criedthe miser, «Master! master! pray let the fiddle alone. What have I doneto deserve this?» «Thou hast shaved many a poor soul close enough,’said the other; «thou art only meeting thy reward’: so he played upanother tune. Then the miser began to beg and promise, and offeredmoney for his liberty; but he did not come up to the musician’s pricefor some time, and he danced him along brisker and brisker, and themiser bid higher and higher, till at last he offered a round hundredof florins that he had in his purse, and had just gained by cheatingsome poor fellow. When the countryman saw so much money, he said, «Iwill agree to your proposal.» So he took the purse, put up his fiddle,and travelled on very pleased with his bargain.

Meanwhile the miser crept out of the bush half-naked and in apiteous plight, and began to ponder how he should take his revenge, andserve his late companion some trick. At last he went to the judge,and complained that a rascal had robbed him of his money, andbeaten him into the bargain; and that the fellow who did it carried abow at his back and a fiddle hung round his neck. Then the judge sentout his officers to bring up the accused wherever they should findhim; and he was soon caught and brought up to be tried.

The miser began to tell his tale, and said he had been robbed ofhis money. «No, you gave it me for playing a tune to you.’said the countryman; but the judge told him that was not likely, andcut the matter short by ordering him off to the gallows.

So away he was taken; but as he stood on the steps he said, «MyLord Judge, grant me one last request.» «Anything but thy life,’replied the other. «No,» said he, «I do not ask my life; only to letme play upon my fiddle for the last time.» The miser cried out, «Oh,no! no! for heaven’s sake don’t listen to him! don’t listen to him!’But the judge said, «It is only this once, he will soon have done.» Thefact was, he could not refuse the request, on account of the dwarf’sthird gift.

Then the miser said, «Bind me fast, bind me fast, for pity’s sake.’But the countryman seized his fiddle, and struck up a tune, and at thefirst note judge, clerks, and jailer were in motion; all began capering,and no one could hold the miser. At the second note the hangman let hisprisoner go, and danced also, and by the time he had played the firstbar of the tune, all were dancing together—judge, court, and miser,and all the people who had followed to look on. At first the thingwas merry and pleasant enough; but when it had gone on a while, andthere seemed to be no end of playing or dancing, they began to cry out,and beg him to leave off; but he stopped not a whit the more fortheir entreaties, till the judge not only gave him his life, butpromised to return him the hundred florins.

Then he called to the miser, and said, «Tell us now, you vagabond,where you got that gold, or I shall play on for your amusement only,’«I stole it,» said the miser in the presence of all the people; «Iacknowledge that I stole it, and that you earned it fairly.» Then thecountryman stopped his fiddle, and left the miser to take his place atthe gallows.

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