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The Miser In The Bush

from Grimms' Fairy Tales





A farmer had a faithful and diligent servant, who had worked hard for
him three years, without having been paid any wages. At last it came
into the man's head that he would not go on thus without pay any longer;
so he went to his master, and said, 'I have worked hard for you a long
time, I will trust to you to give me what I deserve to have for my
trouble.' The farmer was a sad miser, and knew that his man was very
simple-hearted; so he took out threepence, and gave him for every year's
service a penny. The poor fellow thought it was a great deal of money to
have, and said to himself, 'Why should I work hard, and live here on bad
fare any longer? I can now travel into the wide world, and make myself
merry.' With that he put his money into his purse, and set out, roaming
over hill and valley.

As he jogged along over the fields, singing and dancing, a little dwarf
met him, and asked him what made him so merry. 'Why, what should make
me down-hearted?' said he; 'I am sound in health and rich in purse, what
should I care for? I have saved up my three years' earnings and have it
all safe in my pocket.' 'How much may it come to?' said the little man.
'Full threepence,' replied the countryman. 'I wish you would give them
to me,' said the other; 'I am very poor.' Then the man pitied him, and
gave him all he had; and the little dwarf said in return, 'As you have
such a kind honest heart, I will grant you three wishes--one for every
penny; so choose whatever you like.' Then the countryman rejoiced at
his good luck, and said, 'I like many things better than money: first, I
will have a bow that will bring down everything I shoot at; secondly,
a fiddle that will set everyone dancing that hears me play upon it; and
thirdly, I should like that everyone should grant what I ask.' The dwarf
said he should have his three wishes; so he gave him the bow and fiddle,
and went his way.

Our honest friend journeyed on his way too; and if he was merry before,
he was now ten times more so. He had not gone far before he met an old
miser: close by them stood a tree, and on the topmost twig sat a thrush
singing away most joyfully. 'Oh, what a pretty bird!' said the miser; 'I
would give a great deal of money to have such a one.' 'If that's all,'
said the countryman, 'I will soon bring it down.' Then he took up his
bow, and down fell the thrush into the bushes at the foot of the tree.
The miser crept into the bush to find it; but directly he had got into
the middle, his companion took up his fiddle and played away, and the
miser began to dance and spring about, capering higher and higher in
the air. The thorns soon began to tear his clothes till they all hung
in rags about him, and he himself was all scratched and wounded, so that
the blood ran down. 'Oh, for heaven's sake!' cried the miser, 'Master!
master! pray let the fiddle alone. What have I done to deserve this?'
'Thou hast shaved many a poor soul close enough,' said the other; 'thou
art only meeting thy reward': so he played up another tune. Then the
miser began to beg and promise, and offered money for his liberty; but
he did not come up to the musician's price for some time, and he danced
him along brisker and brisker, and the miser bid higher and higher, till
at last he offered a round hundred of florins that he had in his purse,
and had just gained by cheating some poor fellow. When the countryman
saw so much money, he said, 'I will agree to your proposal.' So he took
the purse, put up his fiddle, and travelled on very pleased with his
bargain.

Meanwhile the miser crept out of the bush half-naked and in a piteous
plight, and began to ponder how he should take his revenge, and serve
his late companion some trick. At last he went to the judge, and
complained that a rascal had robbed him of his money, and beaten him
into the bargain; and that the fellow who did it carried a bow at his
back and a fiddle hung round his neck. Then the judge sent out his
officers to bring up the accused wherever they should find him; and he
was soon caught and brought up to be tried.

The miser began to tell his tale, and said he had been robbed of
his money. 'No, you gave it me for playing a tune to you.' said the
countryman; but the judge told him that was not likely, and cut the
matter short by ordering him off to the gallows.

So away he was taken; but as he stood on the steps he said, 'My Lord
Judge, grant me one last request.' 'Anything but thy life,' replied the
other. 'No,' said he, 'I do not ask my life; only to let me play upon
my fiddle for the last time.' The miser cried out, 'Oh, no! no! for
heaven's sake don't listen to him! don't listen to him!' But the judge
said, 'It is only this once, he will soon have done.' The fact was, he
could not refuse the request, on account of the dwarf's third gift.

Then the miser said, 'Bind me fast, bind me fast, for pity's sake.' But
the countryman seized his fiddle, and struck up a tune, and at the first
note judge, clerks, and jailer were in motion; all began capering, and
no one could hold the miser. At the second note the hangman let his
prisoner go, and danced also, and by the time he had played the first
bar of the tune, all were dancing together--judge, court, and miser, and
all the people who had followed to look on. At first the thing was merry
and pleasant enough; but when it had gone on a while, and there seemed
to be no end of playing or dancing, they began to cry out, and beg him
to leave off; but he stopped not a whit the more for their entreaties,
till the judge not only gave him his life, but promised to return him
the hundred florins.

Then he called to the miser, and said, 'Tell us now, you vagabond, where
you got that gold, or I shall play on for your amusement only,' 'I stole
it,' said the miser in the presence of all the people; 'I acknowledge
that I stole it, and that you earned it fairly.' Then the countryman
stopped his fiddle, and left the miser to take his place at the gallows.





Next: Ashputtel

Previous: Clever Elsie



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