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Clever Alice

from The Best Popular Stories Selected And Rendered Anew





Once upon a time there was a man who had a daughter, who was called
Clever Alice; and when she was grown up, her father said, We must
see about her marrying.

Yes, replied her mother, whenever a young man shall appear who is
worthy of her.

At last a certain youth, by name Hans, came from a distance to make a
proposal of marriage but he required one condition, that the Clever
Alice should be very prudent.

Oh, said her father, no fear of that! she has got a head full of
brains; and the mother added, Ah, she can see the wind blow up the
street, and hear the flies cough!

Very well, replied Hans; but remember, if she is not very prudent,
I will not take her. Soon afterwards they sat down to dinner, and her
mother said, Alice, go down into the cellar and draw some beer.

So Clever Alice took the jug down from the wall, and went into the
cellar, jerking the lid up and down on her way, to pass away the time.
As soon as she got downstairs, she drew a stool and placed it before
the cask, in order that she might not have to stoop, for she thought
stooping might in some way injure her back, and give it an
undesirable bend. Then she placed the can before her and turned the
tap, and while the beer was running, as she did not wish her eyes to
be idle, she looked about upon the wall above and below. Presently she
perceived, after much peeping into this corner and that corner, a
hatchet, which the bricklayers had left behind, sticking out of the
ceiling right above her head. At the sight of this Clever Alice began
to cry, saying, Oh! if I marry Hans, and we have a child, and he
grows up, and we send him into the cellar to draw beer, the hatchet
will fall upon his head and kill him; and so she sat there weeping
with all her might over the impending misfortune.

Meanwhile the good folks upstairs were waiting for the beer, but as
Clever Alice did not come, her mother told the maid to go and see what
she was stopping for. The maid went down into the cellar, and found
Alice sitting before the cask crying heartily, and she asked, Alice,
what are you weeping about?

Ah, she replied, have I not cause? If I marry Hans, and we have a
child, and he grow up, and we send him here to draw beer, that hatchet
will fall upon his head and kill him.

Oh, said the maid, what a clever Alice we have! And, sitting down,
she began to weep, too, for the misfortune that was to happen.

After a while, when the servant did not return, the good folks above
began to feel very thirsty; so the husband told the boy to go down
into the cellar, and see what had become of Alice and the maid. The
boy went down, and there sat Clever Alice and the maid both crying,
so he asked the reason; and Alice told him the same tale, of the
hatchet that was to fall on her child, if she married Hans, and if
they had a child. When she had finished, the boy exclaimed, What a
clever Alice we have! and fell weeping and howling with the others.

Upstairs they were still waiting, and the husband said, when the boy
did not return, Do you go down, wife, into the cellar and see why
Alice stays so long. So she went down, and finding all three sitting
there crying, asked the reason, and Alice told her about the hatchet
which must inevitably fall upon the head of her son. Then the mother
likewise exclaimed, Oh, what a clever Alice we have! and, sitting
down, began to weep as much as any of the rest.

Meanwhile the husband waited for his wife's return; but at last he
felt so very thirsty, that he said, I must go myself down into the
cellar and see what is keeping our Alice. As soon as he entered the
cellar, there he found the four sitting and crying together, and when
he heard the reason, he also exclaimed, Oh, what a clever Alice we
have! and sat down to cry with the whole strength of his lungs.

All this time the bridegroom above sat waiting, but when nobody
returned, he thought they must be waiting for him, and so he went down
to see what was the matter. When he entered, there sat the five crying
and groaning, each one in a louder key than his neighbour.

What misfortune has happened? he asked.

Ah, dear Hans! cried Alice, if you and I should marry one another,
and have a child, and he grow up, and we, perhaps, send him down to
this cellar to tap the beer, the hatchet which has been left sticking
up there may fall on his head, and so kill him: and do you not think
this is enough to weep about?

Now, said Hans, more prudence than this is not necessary for my
housekeeping; because you are such a clever Alice, I will have you for
my wife. And, taking her hand, he led her home, and celebrated the
wedding directly.

After they had been married a little while, Hans said one morning,
Wife, I will go out to work and earn some money; do you go into the
field and gather some corn wherewith to make bread.

Yes, she answered, I will do so, dear Hans. And when he was gone,
she cooked herself a nice mess of pottage to take with her. As she
came to the field she said to herself, What shall I do? Shall I cut
first, or eat first? Ay, I will eat first! Then she ate up the
contents of her pot, and when it was finished, she thought to herself,
Now, shall I reap first or sleep first? Well, I think I will have a
nap! and so she laid herself down amongst the corn, and went to
sleep.

Meanwhile Hans returned home, but Alice did not come, and so he said,
Oh, what a prudent Alice I have! She is so industrious that she does
not even come home to eat anything. By-and-by, however, evening came
on, and still she did not return; so Hans went out to see how much
she had reaped; but, behold, nothing at all, and there lay Alice fast
asleep among the corn! So home he ran very fast, and brought a net
with little bells hanging on it, which he threw over her head while
she still slept on. When he had done this, he went back again and shut
to the house-door, and, seating himself on his stool, began working
very industriously.

At last, when it was nearly dark, the Clever Alice awoke, and as soon
as she stood up, the net fell all over her hair, and the bells jingled
at every step she took. This quite frightened her, and she began to
doubt whether she were really Clever Alice, and said to herself, Am I
she, or am I not? This was a question she could not answer, and she
stood still a long while considering about it. At last she thought she
would go home and ask whether she were really herself--supposing
somebody would be able to tell her. When she came to the house-door it
was shut; so she tapped at the window, and asked, Hans, is Alice
within? Yes, he replied, she is. At which answer she became
really terrified, and exclaiming, Ah, heaven, then I am not Alice!
she ran up to another house, intending to ask the same question. But
as soon as the folks within heard the jingling of the bells in her
net, they refused to open their doors, and nobody would receive her.
So she ran straight away from the village, and no one has ever seen
her since.






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