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The Clever Lass

from Europa's Fairy Book





Now there was once a farmer who had but one daughter of whom he was
very proud because she was so clever. So whenever he was in any
difficulty he would go to her and ask her what he should do. It
happened that he had a dispute with one of his neighbours, and the
matter came before the King, and he, after hearing from both of them,
did not know how to decide and said:

"You both seem to be right and you both seem to be wrong, and I do not
know how to decide; so I will leave it to yourselves in this way:
whichever of you can answer best the three questions I am about to ask
shall win this trial. What is the most beautiful thing? What is the
strongest thing? and, What is the richest thing? Now go home and think
over your answers and bring them to me to-morrow morning."

So the farmer went home and told his daughter what had happened, and
she told him what to answer next day.

So when the matter came up for trial before the King he asked first
the farmer's neighbour,

"What is the most beautiful thing?"

And he answered, "My wife."

Then he asked him, "What is the strongest thing?"

"My ox."

"And what is the richest?"

And he answered, "Myself."

Then he turned to the farmer and asked him,

"What is the most beautiful thing?"

And the farmer answered, "Spring."

Then he asked him, "What is the strongest?"

"The earth."

Then he asked, "What is the richest thing?"

He answered, "The harvest."

Then the King decided that the farmer had answered best, and gave
judgment in his favour. But he had noticed that the farmer had
hesitated in his answers and seemed to be trying to remember things.
So he called him up to him and said,

"I fancy those arrows did not come from your quiver. Who told you how
to answer so cleverly?"

Then the farmer said, "Please your Majesty, it was my daughter who is
the cleverest girl in all the world."

"Is that so?" said the King. "I should like to test that."

Shortly afterwards the King sent one of his servants to the farmer's
daughter with a round cake and thirty small biscuits and a roast
capon, and told him to ask her whether the moon was full, and what
day of the month it was, and whether the rooster had crowed in the
night. On the way the servant ate half the cake and half of the
biscuits and hid the capon away for his supper. And when he had
delivered the rest to the Clever Girl and told his message she gave
this reply to be brought back to the King:

"It is only half-moon and the 15th of the month and the rooster has
flown away to the mill; but spare the pheasant for the sake of the
partridge."

And when the servant had brought back this message to the King, he
cried out,

"You have eaten half the cake and fifteen of the biscuits and didn't
hand over the capon at all."

Then the servant confessed that this was all true, and the King said,

"I would have punished you severely but that this Clever Girl begs me
to forgive the pheasant, by which she meant you, for the sake of the
partridge, by which she meant herself. So you may go unpunished."

The King was so delighted with the cleverness of the girl that he
determined to marry her. But, wishing to test her once more before
doing so, he sent her a message that she should come to him clothed,
yet unclothed, neither walking, nor driving, nor riding, neither in
shadow nor in sun, and with a gift which is no gift.

When the farmer's daughter received this message she went near the
King's palace, and having undressed herself wrapped herself up in her
long hair, and then had herself placed in a net which was attached to
the tail of a horse. With one hand she held a sieve over her head to
shield herself from the sun; and in the other she held a platter
covered with another platter.

Thus she came to the King neither clothed nor unclothed, neither
walking, nor riding, nor driving, neither in sun nor in shadow.

Now when she was released from the net and a mantle had been placed
over her she handed the platter to the King, who took the top platter
off, whereupon a little bird that had been between the two platters
flew away. This was the gift that was no gift.

The King was so delighted at the way in which the farmer's daughter
had solved the riddle that he immediately married her and made her his
Queen. And they lived very happily together though no children came to
them. The King depended upon her for advice in all his affairs and
would often have her seated by him when he was giving judgment in law
matters.

Now it happened that one day at the end of all the other cases there
came two peasants, each of whom claimed a foal that had been born in a
stable where they had both left their carts, one with a horse and the
other with a mare. The King was tired with the day's pleadings, and
without thinking and without consulting his Queen who sat by his
side, he said,

"Let the first man have it," who happened to be the peasant whose cart
was drawn by the horse.

Now the Queen was vexed that her husband should have decided so
unjustly, and when the court was over she went to the other peasant
and told him how he could convince the King that he had made a rash
judgment. So the next day he took a stool outside the King's window
and commenced fishing with a fishing-rod in the road.

The King looking out of his window saw this and began to laugh and
called out to the man,

"You won't find many fish on a dry road," to which the peasant
answered,

"As many as foals that come from a horse."

Then the King remembered his judgment of yesterday and, calling the
men before him, decided that the foal should belong to the man who had
the mare and who had fished in front of his windows. But he said to
him as he dismissed them,

"That arrow never came from your quiver."

Then he went to his Queen in a towering rage and said to her,

"How dare you interfere in my judgments?"

And she said, "I did not like my dear husband to do what was unjust."
But the King said,

"Then you ought to have spoken to me, not shamed me before my people.
That is too much. You shall go back to your father who is so proud of
you. And the only favour I can grant you will be that you can take
with you from the palace whatever you love best."

"Your Majesty's wish shall be my law," said the Queen, "but let us at
least not part in anger. Let me have my last dinner as Queen in your
company."

When they dined together the Queen put a sleeping potion in the King's
cup, and when he fell asleep she directed the servants to put him in
the carriage that was waiting to take her home, and carried him into
her bed. When he woke up next morning he asked,

"Where am I, and why are you still with me?"

Then the Queen said, "You allowed me to take with me that which I
loved best in the palace, and so I took you."

Then the King recognized the love his Queen had for him, and brought
her back to his palace, and they lived together there forever
afterwards.





Next: Thumbkin

Previous: Johnnie And Grizzle



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