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Blockhead-hans

from The Yellow Fairy Book





Far away in the country lay an old manor-house where lived an old
squire who had two sons. They thought themselves so clever, that
if they had known only half of what they did know, it would have
been quite enough. They both wanted to marry the King's
daughter, for she had proclaimed that she would have for her
husband the man who knew best how to choose his words.

Both prepared for the wooing a whole week, which was the longest
time allowed them; but, after all, it was quite long enough, for
they both had preparatory knowledge, and everyone knows how
useful that is. One knew the whole Latin dictionary and also
three years' issue of the daily paper of the town off by heart,
so that he could repeat it all backwards or forwards as you
pleased. The other had worked at the laws of corporation, and
knew by heart what every member of the corporation ought to know,
so that he thought he could quite well speak on State matters and
give his opinion. He understood, besides this, how to embroider
braces with roses and other flowers, and scrolls, for he was very
ready with his fingers.

'I shall win the king's daughter!' they both cried.

Their old father gave each of them a fine horse; the one who knew
the dictionary and the daily paper by heart had a black horse,
while the other who was so clever at corporation law had a milk-
white one. Then they oiled the corners of their mouths so that
they might be able to speak more fluently. All the servants
stood in the courtyard and saw them mount their steeds, and here
by chance came the third brother; for the squire had three sons,
but nobody counted him with his brothers, for he was not so
learned as they were, and he was generally called
'Blockhead-Hans.'

'Oh, oh!' said Blockhead-Hans. 'Where are you off to? You are
in your Sunday-best clothes!'

'We are going to Court, to woo the Princess! Don't you know what
is known throughout all the country side?' And they told him all
about it.

'Hurrah! I'll go to!' cried Blockhead-Hans; and the brothers
laughed at him and rode off.

'Dear father!' cried Blockhead-Hans, 'I must have a horse too.
What a desire for marriage has seized me! If she will have me,
she WILL have me, and if she won't have me, I will have her.'

'Stop that nonsense!' said the old man. 'I will not give you a
horse. YOU can't speak; YOU don't know how to choose your words.
Your brothers! Ah! they are very different lads!'

'Well,' said Blockhead-Hans, 'if I can't have a horse, I will
take the goat which is mine; he can carry me!'

And he did so. He sat astride on the goat, struck his heels into
its side, and went rattling down the high-road like a hurricane.

'Hoppetty hop! what a ride!' Here I come!' shouted Blockhead-
Hans, singing so that the echoes were roused far and near. But
his brothers were riding slowly in front. They were not
speaking, but they were thinking over all the good things they
were going to say, for everything had to be thought out.

'Hullo!' bawled Blockhead-Hans, 'here I am! Just look what I
found on the road!'--and he showed them a dead crow which he had
picked up.

'Blockhead!' said his brothers, 'what are you going to do with
it?'

'With the crow? I shall give it to the Princess!'

'Do so, certainly!' they said, laughing loudly and riding on.

'Slap! bang! here I am again! Look what I have just found!
You don't find such things every day on the road!' And the
brothers turned round to see what in the world he could have
found.

'Blockhead!' said they, 'that is an old wooden shoe without the
top! Are you going to send that, too, to the Princess?'

'Of course I shall!' returned Blockhead-Hans; and the brothers
laughed and rode on a good way.

'Slap! bang! here I am!' cried Blockhead-Hans; 'better and
better--it is really famous!'

'What have you found now?' asked the brothers.

'Oh,' said Blockhead-Hans, 'it is really too good! How pleased
the Princess will be!'

'Why!' said the brothers, 'this is pure mud, straight from the
ditch.'

'Of course it is!' said Blockhead-Hans, 'and it is the best kind!
Look how it runs through one's fingers!' and, so saying, he
filled his pocket with the mud.

But the brothers rode on so fast that dust and sparks flew all
around, and they reached the gate of the town a good hour before
Blockhead-Hans. Here came the suitors numbered according to
their arrival, and they were ranged in rows, six in each row, and
they were so tightly packed that they could not move their arms.
This was a very good thing, for otherwise they would have torn
each other in pieces, merely because the one was in front of the
other.

All the country people were standing round the King's throne, and
were crowded together in thick masses almost out of the windows
to see the Princess receive the suitors; and as each one came
into the room all his fine phrases went out like a candle!

'It doesn't matter!' said the Princess. 'Away! out with him!'

At last she came to the row in which the brother who knew the
dictionary by heart was, but he did not know it any longer; he
had quite forgotten it in the rank and file. And the floor
creaked, and the ceiling was all made of glass mirrors, so that
he saw himself standing on his head, and by each window were
standing three reporters and an editor; and each of them was
writing down what was said, to publish it in the paper that came
out and was sold at the street corners for a penny. It was
fearful, and they had made up the fire so hot that it was
grilling.

'It is hot in here, isn't it!' said the suitor.

'Of course it is! My father is roasting young chickens to-day!'
said the Princess.

'Ahem!' There he stood like an idiot. He was not prepared for
such a speech; he did not know what to say, although he wanted to
say something witty. 'Ahem!'

'It doesn't matter!' said the Princess. 'Take him out!' and out
he had to go.

Now the other brother entered.

'How hot it is!' he said.

'Of course! We are roasting young chickens to-day!' remarked the
Princess.

'How do you--um!' he said, and the reporters wrote down. 'How do
you--um.'

'It doesn't matter!' said the Princess. 'Take him out!'

Now Blockhead-Hans came in; he rode his goat right into the hall.

'I say! How roasting hot it is here!' said he.

'Of course! I am roasting young chickens to-day!' said the
Princess.

'That's good!' replied Blockhead-Hans; 'then can I roast a crow
with them?'

'With the greatest of pleasure!' said the Princess; 'but have you
anything you can roast them in? for I have neither pot nor
saucepan.'

'Oh, rather!' said Blockhead-Hans. 'Here is a cooking implement
with tin rings,' and he drew out the old wooden shoe, and laid
the crow in it.

'That is quite a meal!' said the Princess; 'but where shall we
get the soup from?'

'I've got that in my pocket!' said Blockhead-Hans. 'I have so
much that I can quite well throw some away!' and he poured some
mud out of his pocket.

'I like you!' said the Princess. 'You can answer, and you can
speak, and I will marry you; but do you know that every word
which we are saying and have said has been taken down and will be
in the paper to-morrow? By each window do you see there are
standing three reporters and an old editor, and this old editor
is the worst, for he doesn't understand anything!' but she only
said this to tease Blockhead-Hans. And the reporters giggled,
and each dropped a blot of ink on the floor.

'Ah! are those the great people?' said Blockhead-Hans. 'Then I
will give the editor the best!' So saying, he turned his pockets
inside out, and threw the mud right in his face.

'That was neatly done!' said the Princess. 'I couldn't have done
it; but I will soon learn how to!'

Blockhead-Hans became King, got a wife and a crown, and sat on
the throne; and this we have still damp from the newspaper of the
editor and the reporters--and they are not to be believed for a
moment.





Next: A Story About A Darning-needle

Previous: The Steadfast Tin-soldier



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