The Little Robber Girl
The Boy Who Cried Wolf
AMERICAN INDIAN STORIES
Animal Sketches And Stories
Blondine Bonne Biche and Beau Minon
BRER RABBIT and HIS NEIGHBORS
CHINESE MOTHER-GOOSE RHYMES
FABLES FOR CHILDREN
FABLES FROM INDIA
FATHER PLAYS AND MOTHER PLAYS
FIRST STORIES FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
For Classes Ii. And Iii.
For Classes Iv. And V.
For Kindergarten And Class I.
FUN FOR VERY LITTLE FOLK
Good Little Henry
JAPANESE AND OTHER ORIENTAL TALES]
Jean De La Fontaine
King Alexander's Adventures
KINGS AND WARRIORS
LAND AND WATER FAIRIES
Lessons From Nature
LITTLE STORIES that GROW BIG
MODERN FAIRY TALES
MOTHER GOOSE CONTINUED
MOTHER GOOSE JINGLES
MOTHER GOOSE SONGS AND STORIES
Myths And Legends
NEGLECT THE FIRE
ON POPULAR EDUCATION
PLACES AND FAMILIES
Poems Of Nature
RESURRECTION DAY (EASTER)
RHYMES CONCERNING "MOTHER"
RIDING SONGS for FATHER'S KNEE
ROMANCES OF THE MIDDLE AGES
SAINT VALENTINE'S DAY
Selections From The Bible
SLEEPY-TIME SONGS AND STORIES
Some Children's Poets
Songs Of Life
STORIES BY FAVORITE AMERICAN WRITERS
STORIES FOR CHILDREN
STORIES for LITTLE BOYS
STORIES FROM BOTANY
STORIES FROM GREAT BRITAIN
STORIES FROM IRELAND
STORIES FROM PHYSICS
STORIES FROM SCANDINAVIA
STORIES FROM ZOOLOGY
STORIES _for_ LITTLE GIRLS
THE DAYS OF THE WEEK
The King Of The Golden River; Or, The Black Brothers
The Little Grey Mouse
THE OLD FAIRY TALES
The Princess Rosette
THE THREE HERMITS
THE TWO OLD MEN
UNCLES AND AUNTS AND OTHER RELATIVES
VERSES ABOUT FAIRIES
WHAT MEN LIVE BY
WHERE LOVE IS, THERE GOD IS ALSO
Which Was The Foolishest?
from The Brown Fairy Book
In a little village that stood on a wide plain, where you could see
the sun from the moment he rose to the moment he set, there lived two
couples side by side. The men, who worked under the same master, were
quite good friends, but the wives were always quarrelling, and the
subject they quarrelled most about was--which of the two had the
Unlike most women--who think that anything that belongs to them must be
better than what belongs to anyone else--each thought her husband the
more foolish of the two.
'You should just see what he does!' one said to her neighbour. 'He puts
on the baby's frock upside down, and, one day, I found him trying to
feed her with boiling soup, and her mouth was scalded for days after.
Then he picks up stones in the road and sows them instead of potatoes,
and one day he wanted to go into the garden from the top window, because
he declared it was a shorter way than through the door.'
'That is bad enough, of course,' answered the other; 'but it is really
NOTHING to what I have to endure every day from MY husband. If, when
I am busy, I ask him to go and feed the poultry, he is certain to give
them some poisonous stuff instead of their proper food, and when I visit
the yard next I find them all dead. Once he even took my best bonnet,
when I had gone away to my sick mother, and when I came back I found he
had given it to the hen to lay her eggs in. And you know yourself that,
only last week, when I sent him to buy a cask of butter, he returned
driving a hundred and fifty ducks which someone had induced him to take,
and not one of them would lay.'
'Yes, I am afraid he IS trying,' replied the first; 'but let us put them
to the proof, and see which of them is the most foolish.'
So, about the time that she expected her husband home from work, she got
out her spinning-wheel, and sat busily turning it, taking care not even
to look up from her work when the man came in. For some minutes he stood
with his mouth open watching her, and as she still remained silent, he
said at last:
'Have you gone mad, wife, that you sit spinning without anything on the
'YOU may think that there is nothing on it,' answered she, 'but I can
assure you that there is a large skein of wool, so fine that nobody can
see it, which will be woven into a coat for you.'
'Dear me!' he replied, 'what a clever wife I have got! If you had not
told me I should never have known that there was any wool on the wheel
at all. But now I really do seem to see something.'
The woman smiled and was silent, and after spinning busily for an hour
more, she got up from her stoop, and began to weave as fast as she
could. At last she got up, and said to her husband: 'I am too tired to
finish it to-night, so I shall go to bed, and to-morrow I shall only
have the cutting and stitching to do.'
So the next morning she got up early, and after she had cleaned her
house, and fed her chickens, and put everything in its place again, she
bent over the kitchen table, and the sound of her big scissors might
be heard snip! snap! as far as the garden. Her husband could not see
anything to snip at; but then he was so stupid that was not surprising!
After the cutting came the sewing. The woman patted and pinned and fixed
and joined, and then, turning to the man, she said:
'Now it is ready for you to try on.' And she made him take off his coat,
and stand up in front of her, and once more she patted an pinned and
fixed and joined, and was very careful in smoothing out every wrinkle.
'It does not feel very warm,' observed the man at last, when he had
borne all this patiently for a long time.
'That is because it is so fine,' answered she; 'you do not want it to be
as thick as the rough clothes you wear every day.'
He DID, but was ashamed to say so, and only answered: 'Well, I am sure
it must be beautiful since you say so, and I shall be smarter than
anyone in the whole village. "What a splendid coat!" they will exclaim
when they see me. But it is not everybody who has a wife as clever as
Meanwhile the other wife was not idle. As soon as her husband entered
she looked at him with such a look of terror that the poor man was quite
'Why do you stare at me so? Is there anything the matter?' asked he.
'Oh! go to bed at once,' she cried; 'you must be very ill indeed to look
The man was rather surprised at first, as he felt particularly well that
evening; but the moment his wife spoke he became quite certain that he
had something dreadful the matter with him, and grew quite pale.
'I dare say it would be the best place for me,' he answered, trembling;
and he suffered his wife to take him upstairs, and to help him off with
'If you sleep well during the might there MAY be a chance for you,' said
she, shaking her head, as she tucked him up warmly; 'but if not--' And
of course the poor man never closed an eye till the sun rose.
'How do you feel this morning?' asked the woman, coming in on tip-toe
when her house-work was finished.
'Oh, bad; very bad indeed,' answered he; 'I have not slept for a moment.
Can you think of nothing to make me better?'
'I will try everything that is possible,' said the wife, who did not in
the least wish her husband to die, but was determined to show that he
was more foolish that the other man. 'I will get some dried herbs and
make you a drink, but I am very much afraid that it is too late. Why did
you not tell me before?'
'I thought perhaps the pain would go off in a day or two; and, besides,
I did not want to make you unhappy,' answered the man, who was by this
time quite sure he had been suffering tortures, and had borne them like
a hero. 'Of course, if I had had any idea how ill I really was, I should
have spoken at once.'
'Well, well, I will see what can be done,' said the wife, 'but talking
is not good for you. Lie still, and keep yourself warm.'
All that day the man lay in bed, and whenever his wife entered the room
and asked him, with a shake of the head, how he felt, he always replied
that he was getting worse. At last, in the evening, she burst into
tears, and when he inquired what was the matter, she sobbed out:
'Oh, my poor, poor husband, are you really dead? I must go to-morrow and
order your coffin.'
Now, when the man heard this, a cold shiver ran through his body, and
all at once he knew that he was as well as he had ever been in his life.
'Oh, no, no!' he cried, 'I feel quite recovered! Indeed, I think I shall
go out to work.'
'You will do no such thing,' replied his wife. 'Just keep quite quiet,
for before the sun rises you will be a dead man.'
The man was very frightened at her words, and lay absolutely still while
the undertaker came and measured him for his coffin; and his wife gave
orders to the gravedigger about his grave. That evening the coffin was
sent home, and in the morning at nine o'clock the woman put him on a
long flannel garment, and called to the undertaker's men to fasten down
the lid and carry him to the grave, where all their friends were waiting
them. Just as the body was being placed in the ground the other woman's
husband came running up, dressed, as far as anyone could see, in no
clothes at all. Everybody burst into shouts of laughter at the sight of
him, and the men laid down the coffin and laughed too, till their sides
nearly split. The dead man was so astonished at this behaviour, that he
peeped out of a little window in the side of the coffin, and cried out:
'I should laugh as loudly as any of you, if I were not a dead man.'
When they heard the voice coming from the coffin the other people
suddenly stopped laughing, and stood as if they had been turned into
stone. Then they rushed with one accord to the coffin, and lifted the
lid so that the man could step out amongst them.
'Were you really not dead after all?' asked they. 'And if not, why did
you let yourself be buried?'
At this the wives both confessed that they had each wished to prove that
her husband was stupider than the other. But the villagers declared that
they could not decide which was the most foolish--the man who allowed
himself to be persuaded that he was wearing fine clothes when he was
dressed in nothing, or the man who let himself be buried when he was
alive and well.
So the women quarrelled just as much as they did before, and no one ever
knew whose husband was the most foolish.
Next: Asmund And Signy
Previous: The Lion And The Cat