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The Farm The Castle The Forge

from Old French Fairy Tales - OURSON





Ourson walked more than three hours before he arrived at a large and
beautiful farm where he hoped to obtain employment. He saw from a
distance the farmer and his family seated before his front door taking
their evening meal.

He was but a short way off when one of the children, a little boy about
ten years of age, perceived him. He sprang from his seat, uttered a cry
of terror and fled into the house.

A second child, a little girl eight years old, hearing the cry of her
brother turned towards Ourson and commenced the most piercing shrieks.

All the family now followed the movement of the children and turned
around. At the sight of Ourson the women cried out with terror and the
children fled in wild alarm. The men seized sticks and pitchforks
expecting to be attacked by poor Ourson whom they took for some
extraordinary animal escaped from a menagerie.

Ourson, seeing this movement of terror and preparation for attack, spoke
to them hoping to dissipate their fears.

"I am not a bear, as you seem to suppose, but a poor boy seeking work
and who would be very glad if you should give him employment."

The farmer was greatly amazed to hear a bear speak. He did not know
whether to fly or to interrogate him further. He resolved, however, to
speak.

"Who are you and from whence do you come?"

"I come from the Woodland Farm and I am the son of Agnella," Ourson
replied.

"Ah, then it was you who in your childhood went with your mother to
market and frightened all our children to death. You have lived in the
woods and done without our help. Why do you seek us now? Go away and
live as you have lived heretofore."

"Our farm-house is burned to the ground. I have to work now with my
hands to support my mother and sister. For this reason, I pray you to
give me work. I will do all you command me."

"Do you suppose, boy, that I will take into my service a villainous
animal like you who will frighten my wife and my servants to death and
throw my children into convulsions? I am not quite such a fool, my boy;
not quite such a fool. Enough of this. Be off, and allow us to finish
our dinner."

"Master farmer, be merciful. Only try my work. Place me altogether by
myself; then no one will fear me. I will conceal myself so well that
your children shall not see me."

"Will you be done talking, wicked bear? Go instantly; if you don't you
shall feel the teeth of my pitchfork."

Poor Ourson bowed his head. Tears of humiliation and disappointment
glittered in his eyes. He withdrew slowly, followed by the coarse laugh
and shouts of the farm hands.

When out of sight he no longer restrained his tears, but in all this
shame and despair the thought that Violette could take upon herself his
ugly covering did not enter his thoughts.

Ourson walked on till he came in sight of a castle where he saw a crowd
of men coming, going and laboring at every kind of work. Some were
mowing, some raking, some currying horses, some sweeping, some watering
plants, some sowing.

"Here is a house where I shall certainly find work," said Ourson to
himself. "I see neither women nor children and I think the men will not
be afraid of me."

Ourson drew near without being seen. He took off his hat and stood
before a man who seemed to be the superintendent.

"Sir--" said he.

The man looked up, recoiled a step when he saw Ourson and examined him
with the greatest surprise.

"Who are you and what do you want?" said he, in a rude voice.

"Sir, I am the son of Agnella, mistress of the Woodland Farm."

"Well! and what has brought you here?"

"Our house is burned down, sir. I am seeking work in order to support my
mother and sister. I hope you will be good enough to give me
employment."

"Give employment to a bear?"

"Sir, I have only the appearance of a bear. Under this rough outside,
which is so repugnant to you, there beats a human heart--a heart capable
of gratitude and affection. You shall have no reason to complain either
of my work or of my good will."

Whilst Ourson spoke and the superintendent listened with a mocking air,
a great noise was heard amongst the horses. They began to kick and
prance and the grooms could scarcely hold them. Some of them indeed
escaped and fled in terror to the woods.

"It is the bear! It is the bear!" cried the grooms. "It has terrified
the horses. Drive it off! Chase it away! We cannot control our horses."

"Off with you!" cried the superintendent.

Ourson was stupefied by his misfortunes and was immovable.

"Ha! you will not go," vociferated the man. "Wait a few moments, you
hairy beast. I will give you something to run for. Halloa, men! bring
out the dogs, and set them upon this animal. Hurry!--see him scampering
off!"

In fact Ourson, more dead than alive at this cruel treatment,
precipitately withdrew from the presence of these wicked and inhuman
men. This second attempt had failed utterly but he would not allow
himself to be discouraged.

"It is still three or four hours before sunset so I have time to
continue my search for work."

He directed his steps towards a forge which was some distance from
Woodland Farm. The master of the forge employed a great many workmen. He
gave work to those who asked it, not in charity, but in view of his own
interest. He was feared but he was not loved. He developed the riches of
the country but no one thanked him for it because he alone profited by
it. By his avidity and his opulence he ground down the poor workmen who
could only find employment with this new Marquis of Carabas.

Poor Ourson arrived at the forge. The master was at the door, scolding
some, threatening others and terrifying all.

"Sir," said Ourson, drawing near, "have you any work to give me?"

"Certainly. What kind of work----?"

He raised his head at these words for he had replied without looking at
Ourson. When his eye fell upon him he did not finish his phrase; his
eyes flashed with rage and he stammered out:--

"What foolery is this? Are we in the midst of the Carnival, that a
workman ventures upon such a ridiculous masquerade? Throw off your ugly
bear's skin instantly or I will crisp your bristles for you in my fire."

"This, sir, is no masquerade," replied Ourson, sadly; "it is, alas! my
natural skin but if you will be humane enough to employ me you will see
that my strength is equal to my goodwill."

"I give work to you, you vile animal!" cried the master of the forge,
foaming with rage: "I will put you into a sack and send you to a
menagerie or I will throw you into a den with your brother bears. You
will have work enough to defend yourself from their claws. Be off!"

And brandishing his club he would have dealt Ourson a heavy blow if the
poor boy had not made a hasty retreat.





Next: The Sacrifice

Previous: The Well



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