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The Hillman And The Housewife

from Good Stories For Great Holidays - LABOR DAY





BY JULIANA HORATIA EWING (ADAPTED)

It is well known that the Fairy People cannot abide meanness. They like
to be liberally dealt with when they beg or borrow of the human race;
and, on the other hand, to those who come to them in need, they are
invariably generous.

Now there once lived a certain housewife who had a sharp eye to her own
interests, and gave alms of what she had no use for, hoping to get some
reward in return. One day a Hillman knocked at her door.

"Can you lend us a saucepan, good mother?" said he. "There's a wedding
in the hill, and all the pots are in use."

"Is he to have one?" asked the servant lass who had opened the door.

"Aye, to be sure," answered the housewife; "one must be neighborly."

But when the maid was taking a saucepan from the shelf, the housewife
pinched her arm and whispered sharply: "Not that, you good-for-nothing!
Get the old one out of the cupboard. It leaks, and the Hillmen are so
neat, and such nimble workers, that they are sure to mend it before they
send it home. So one obliges the Fairy People, and saves sixpence in
tinkering!"

Thus bidden the maid fetched the saucepan, which had been laid by until
the tinker's next visit, and gave it to the Hillman, who thanked her and
went away.

In due time the saucepan was returned, and, as the housewife had
foreseen, it was neatly mended and ready for use.

At supper-time the maid filled the pan with milk, and set it on the fire
for the children's supper. But in a few minutes the milk was so burnt
and smoked that no one could touch it, and even the pigs refused to
drink it.

"Ah, good-for-nothing hussy!" cried the housewife, as she refilled the
pan herself, "you would ruin the richest with your carelessness! There's
a whole quart of good milk wasted at once!"

"AND THAT'S TWOPENCE!" cried a voice that seemed to come from the
chimney, in a whining tone, like some discontented old body going over
her grievances.

The housewife had not left the saucepan for two minutes, when the milk
boiled over, and it was all burnt and smoked as before.

"The pan must be dirty," muttered the good woman in vexation, "and there
are two full quarts of milk as good as thrown to the dogs."

"AND THAT'S FOURPENCE!" added the voice in the chimney.

After a thorough cleaning the saucepan was once more filled and set on
the fire, but with no better success. The milk boiled over again, and
was hopelessly spoiled. The housewife shed tears of anger at the waste
and cried: "Never before did such a thing befall me since I kept house!
Three quarts of new milk burnt for one meal."

"AND THAT'S SIXPENCE!" cried the voice in the chimney. "You didn't save
the tinkering after all, mother!"

With that the Hillman himself came tumbling down from the chimney, and
went off laughing through the door.

But from then on the saucepan was as good as any other.





Next: Hofus The Stone-cutter

Previous: The Elves And The Shoemaker



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