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Clever Gretel

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





There was once a cook named Gretel, who wore shoes with red heels, and
when she walked out with them on, she turned herself this way and that,
was quite happy and thought: 'You certainly are a pretty girl!' And when
she came home she drank, in her gladness of heart, a draught of wine,
and as wine excites a desire to eat, she tasted the best of whatever she
was cooking until she was satisfied, and said: 'The cook must know what
the food is like.'

It came to pass that the master one day said to her: 'Gretel, there is a
guest coming this evening; prepare me two fowls very daintily.' 'I will
see to it, master,' answered Gretel. She killed two fowls, scalded them,
plucked them, put them on the spit, and towards evening set them before
the fire, that they might roast. The fowls began to turn brown, and were
nearly ready, but the guest had not yet arrived. Then Gretel called out
to her master: 'If the guest does not come, I must take the fowls away
from the fire, but it will be a sin and a shame if they are not eaten
the moment they are at their juiciest.' The master said: 'I will run
myself, and fetch the guest.' When the master had turned his back,
Gretel laid the spit with the fowls on one side, and thought: 'Standing
so long by the fire there, makes one sweat and thirsty; who knows
when they will come? Meanwhile, I will run into the cellar, and take a
drink.' She ran down, set a jug, said: 'God bless it for you, Gretel,'
and took a good drink, and thought that wine should flow on, and should
not be interrupted, and took yet another hearty draught.

Then she went and put the fowls down again to the fire, basted them,
and drove the spit merrily round. But as the roast meat smelt so good,
Gretel thought: 'Something might be wrong, it ought to be tasted!'
She touched it with her finger, and said: 'Ah! how good fowls are! It
certainly is a sin and a shame that they are not eaten at the right
time!' She ran to the window, to see if the master was not coming with
his guest, but she saw no one, and went back to the fowls and thought:
'One of the wings is burning! I had better take it off and eat it.'
So she cut it off, ate it, and enjoyed it, and when she had done, she
thought: 'The other must go down too, or else master will observe that
something is missing.' When the two wings were eaten, she went and
looked for her master, and did not see him. It suddenly occurred to
her: 'Who knows? They are perhaps not coming at all, and have turned in
somewhere.' Then she said: 'Well, Gretel, enjoy yourself, one fowl has

been cut into, take another drink, and eat it up entirely; when it is
eaten you will have some peace, why should God's good gifts be spoilt?'
So she ran into the cellar again, took an enormous drink and ate up the
one chicken in great glee. When one of the chickens was swallowed down,
and still her master did not come, Gretel looked at the other and said:
'What one is, the other should be likewise, the two go together; what's
right for the one is right for the other; I think if I were to take
another draught it would do me no harm.' So she took another hearty
drink, and let the second chicken follow the first.

While she was making the most of it, her master came and cried: 'Hurry
up, Gretel, the guest is coming directly after me!' 'Yes, sir, I will
soon serve up,' answered Gretel. Meantime the master looked to see what
the table was properly laid, and took the great knife, wherewith he was
going to carve the chickens, and sharpened it on the steps. Presently
the guest came, and knocked politely and courteously at the house-door.
Gretel ran, and looked to see who was there, and when she saw the guest,
she put her finger to her lips and said: 'Hush! hush! go away as quickly
as you can, if my master catches you it will be the worse for you; he
certainly did ask you to supper, but his intention is to cut off your
two ears. Just listen how he is sharpening the knife for it!' The guest
heard the sharpening, and hurried down the steps again as fast as he
could. Gretel was not idle; she ran screaming to her master, and cried:
'You have invited a fine guest!' 'Why, Gretel? What do you mean by
that?' 'Yes,' said she, 'he has taken the chickens which I was just
going to serve up, off the dish, and has run away with them!' 'That's a
nice trick!' said her master, and lamented the fine chickens. 'If he had
but left me one, so that something remained for me to eat.' He called to
him to stop, but the guest pretended not to hear. Then he ran after him
with the knife still in his hand, crying: 'Just one, just one,' meaning
that the guest should leave him just one chicken, and not take both. The
guest, however, thought no otherwise than that he was to give up one of
his ears, and ran as if fire were burning under him, in order to take
them both with him.





Next: The Old Man And His Grandson

Previous: Rumpelstiltskin



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