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Fortune And The Wood-cutter

from The Brown Fairy Book





Several hundreds of years ago there lived in a forest a wood-cutter and
his wife and children. He was very poor, having only his axe to depend
upon, and two mules to carry the wood he cut to the neighbouring town;
but he worked hard, and was always out of bed by five o'clock, summer
and winter.

This went on for twenty years, and though his sons were now grown
up, and went with their father to the forest, everything seemed to
go against them, and they remained as poor as ever. In the end the
wood-cutter lost heart, and said to himself:

'What is the good of working like this if I never am a penny the richer
at the end? I shall go to the forest no more! And perhaps, if I take to
my bed, and do not run after Fortune, one day she may come to me.'

So the next morning he did not get up, and when six o'clock struck, his
wife, who had been cleaning the house, went to see what was the matter.

'Are you ill?' she asked wonderingly, surprised at not finding him
dressed. 'The cock has crowed ever so often. It is high time for you to
get up.'

'Why should I get up?' asked the man, without moving.

'Why? to go to the forest, of course.'

'Yes; and when I have toiled all day I hardly earn enough to give us one
meal.'

'But what can we do, my poor husband?' said she. 'It is just a trick of
Fortune's, who would never smile upon us.'

'Well, I have had my fill of Fortune's tricks,' cried he. 'If she wants
me she can find me here. But I have done with the wood for ever.'

'My dear husband, grief has driven you mad! Do you think Fortune will
come to anybody who does not go after her? Dress yourself, and saddle
the mules, and begin your work. Do you know that there is not a morsel
of bread in the house?'

'I don't care if there isn't, and I am not going to the forest. It is no
use your talking; nothing will make me change my mind.'

The distracted wife begged and implored in vain; her husband persisted
in staying in bed, and at last, in despair, she left him and went back
to her work.

An hour or two later a man from the nearest village knocked at her door,
and when she opened it, he said to her: 'Good-morning, mother. I have
got a job to do, and I want to know if your husband will lend me your
mules, as I see he is not using them, and can lend me a hand himself?'

'He is upstairs; you had better ask him,' answered the woman. And the
man went up, and repeated his request.

'I am sorry, neighbour, but I have sworn not to leave my bed, and
nothing will make me break my vow.'

'Well, then, will you lend me your two mules? I will pay you something
for them.'

'Certainly, neighbour. Take them and welcome.'

So the man left the house, and leading the mules from the stable, placed
two sacks on their back, and drove them to a field where he had found
a hidden treasure. He filled the sacks with the money, though he knew
perfectly well that it belonged to the sultan, and was driving them
quietly home again, when he saw two soldiers coming along the road. Now
the man was aware that if he was caught he would be condemned to death,
so he fled back into the forest. The mules, left to themselves, took the
path that led to their master's stable.

The wood-cutter's wife was looking out of the window when the mules drew
up before the door, so heavily laden that they almost sank under their
burdens. She lost no time in calling her husband, who was still lying in
bed.

'Quick! quick! get up as fast as you can. Our two mules have returned
with sacks on their backs, so heavily laden with something or other that
the poor beasts can hardly stand up.'

'Wife, I have told you a dozen times already that I am not going to get
up. Why can't you leave me in peace?'

As she found she could get no help from her husband the woman took a
large knife and cut the cords which bound the sacks on to the animals'
backs. They fell at once to the ground, and out poured a rain of gold
pieces, till the little court-yard shone like the sun.

'A treasure!' gasped the woman, as soon as she could speak from
surprise. 'A treasure!' And she ran off to tell her husband.

'Get up! get up!' she cried. 'You were quite right not to go to the
forest, and to await Fortune in your bed; she has come at last! Our
mules have returned home laden with all the gold in the world, and it is
now lying in the court. No one in the whole country can be as rich as we
are!'

In an instant the wood-cutter was on his feet, and running to the court,
where he paused dazzled by the glitter of the coins which lay around
him.

'You see, my dear wife, that I was right,' he said at last. 'Fortune
is so capricious, you can never count on her. Run after her, and she is
sure to fly from you; stay still, and she is sure to come.'





Next: The Enchanted Head

Previous: How Some Wild Animals Became Tame Ones



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