The Biter Bit





Once upon a time there lived a man called Simon, who was very

rich, but at the same time as stingy and miserly as he could be.

He had a housekeeper called Nina, a clever capable woman, and as

she did her work carefully and conscientiously, her master had the

greatest respect for her.



In his young days Simon had been one of the gayest and most active

youths of the neighbourhood, but as he grew old and stiff he found

it very difficult to walk, and his faithful servant urged him to

get a horse so as to save his poor old bones. At last Simon gave

way to the request and persuasive eloquence of his housekeeper,

and betook himself one day to the market where he had seen a mule,

which he thought would just suit him, and which he bought for

seven gold pieces.



Now it happened that there were three merry rascals hanging about

the market-place, who much preferred living on other people's

goods to working for their own living. As soon as they saw that

Simon had bought a mule, one of them said to his two boon

companions, 'My friends, this mule must be ours before we are many

hours older.'



'But how shall we manage it,' asked one of them.



'We must all three station ourselves at different intervals along

the old man's homeward way, and must each in his turn declare that

the mule he has bought is a donkey. If we only stick to it you'll

see the mule will soon be ours.' This proposal quite satisfied the

others, and they all separated as they had agreed.



Now when Simon came by, the first rogue said to him, 'God bless

you, my fine gentleman.'



'Thanks for your courtesy,' replied Simon.



'Where have you been?' asked the thief.



'To the market,' was the reply.



'And what did you buy there?' continued the rogue.



'This mule.'



'Which mule?'



'The one I'm sitting upon, to be sure,' replied Simon.



'Are you in earnest, or only joking?'



'What do you mean?'



'Because it seems to me you've got hold of a donkey, and not of a

mule.'



'A donkey? Rubbish!' screamed Simon, and without another word he

rode on his way. After a few hundred yards he met the second

confederate, who addressed him, 'Good day, dear sir, where are you

coming from?'



'From the market,' answered Simon.



'Did things go pretty cheap?' asked the other.



'I should just think so,' said Simon.



'And did you make any good bargain yourself?'



'I bought this mule on which you see me.'



'Is it possible that you really bought that beast for a mule?'



'Why certainly.'



'But, good heavens, it's nothing but a donkey!'



'A donkey!' repeated Simon, 'you don't mean to say so; if a single

other person tells me that, I'll make him a present of the

wretched animal.'



With these words he continued his way, and very soon met the third

knave, who said to him, 'God bless you, sir; are you by any chance

coming from the market?'



'Yes, I am,' replied Simon.



'And what bargain did you drive there?' asked the cunning fellow.



'I bought this mule on which I am riding.'



'A mule! Are you speaking seriously, or do you wish to make a fool

of me?'



'I'm speaking in sober earnest,' said Simon; 'it wouldn't occur to

me to make a joke of it.'



'Oh, my poor friend,' cried the rascal, 'don't you see that is a

donkey and not a mule? you have been taken in by some wretched

cheats.'



'You are the third person in the last two hours who has told me

the same thing,' said Simon, 'but I couldn't believe it,' and

dismounting from the mule he spoke: 'Keep the animal, I make you a

present of it.' The rascal took the beast, thanked him kindly, and

rode on to join his comrades, while Simon continued his journey on

foot.



As soon as the old man got home, he told his housekeeper that he

had bought a beast under the belief that it was a mule, but that

it had turned out to be a donkey--at least, so he had been assured

by several people he had met on the road, and that in disgust he

had at last given it away.



'Oh, you simpleton!' cried Nina; 'didn't you see that they were

only playing you a trick? Really, I thought you'd have had more

gumption than that; they wouldn't have taken me in in that way.'



'Never mind,' replied Simon, 'I'll play them one worth two of

that; for depend upon it they won't be contented with having got

the donkey out of me, but they'll try by some new dodge to get

something more, or I'm much mistaken.'



Now there lived in the village not far from Simon's house, a

peasant who had two goats, so alike in every respect that it was

impossible to distinguish one from the other. Simon bought them

both, paid as small a price as he could for them, and leading them

home with him, he told Nina to prepare a good meal, as he was

going to invite some friends to dinner. He ordered her to roast

some veal, and to boil a pair of chickens, and gave her some herbs

to make a good savoury, and told her to bake the best tart she

could make. Then he took one of the goats and tied it to a post in

the courtyard, and gave it some grass to eat; but he bound a cord

round the neck of the other goat and led it to the market.



Hardly had he arrived there, than the three gentlemen who had got

his mule perceived him, and coming up to him said: 'Welcome, Mr.

Simon, what brings you here; are you on the look out for a

bargain?'



'I've come to get some provisions,' he answered, 'because some

friends are coming to dine with me today, and it would give me

much pleasure if you were to honour me with your company also.'



The accomplices willingly accepted this invitation; and after

Simon had made all his purchases, he tied them on to the goat's

back, and said to it, in the presence of the three cheats, 'Go

home now, and tell Nina to roast the veal, and boil the chickens,

and tell her to prepare a savoury with herbs, and to bake the best

tart she can make. Have you followed me? Then go, and Heaven's

blessing go with you.'



As soon as it felt itself free, the laden goat trotted off as

quickly as it could, and to this day nobody knows what became of

it. But Simon, after wandering about the market for some time with

his three friends and some others he had picked up, returned home

to his house.



When he and his guests entered the courtyard, they noticed the

goat tied to the post quietly chewing the cud. They were not a

little astonished at this, for of course they thought it was the

same goat that Simon had sent home laden with provisions. As soon

as they reached the house Mr. Simon said to his housekeeper,

'Well, Nina, have you done what I told the goat to tell you to

do?' The artful woman, who at once understood her master,

answered, 'Certainly I have. The veal is roasted, and the chickens

boiled.'



'That's all right,' said Simon.



When the three rogues saw the cooked meats, and the tart in the

oven, and heard Nina's words, they were nearly beside themselves

with amazement, and began to consult at once how they were to get

the goat into their own possession. At last, towards the end of

the meal, having sought in vain for some cunning dodge to get the

goat away from Mr. Simon, one of them said to him, 'My worthy

host, you must sell your goat to us.'



Simon replied that he was most unwilling to part with the

creature, as no amount of money would make up to him for its loss;

still, if they were quite set on it, he would let them have the

goat for fifty gold pieces.



The knaves, who thought they were doing a capital piece of

business, paid down the fifty gold pieces at once, and left the

house quite happily, leading the goat with them. When they got

home they said to their wives, 'You needn't begin to cook the

dinner to-morrow till we send the provisions home.'



The following day they went to the market and bought chickens and

other eatables, and after they had packed them on the back of the

goat (which they had brought with them), they told it all the

dishes they wished their wives to prepare. As soon as the goat

felt itself free, it ran as quickly as it could, and was very soon

lost to sight, and, as far as I know, was never heard of again.



When the dinner hour approached all three went home and asked

their wives if the goat had returned with the necessary

provisions, and had told them what they wished prepared for their

meal.



'Oh, you fools and blockheads!' cried their wives, 'how could you

ever believe for a moment that a goat would do the work of a

servant-maid? You have been finely deceived for once in a way. Of

course, if you are always taking in other people, your turn to be

taken in comes too, and this time you've been made to look pretty

foolish.'



When the three comrades saw that Mr. Simon had got the better of

them, and done them out of fifty gold pieces, they flew into such

a rage that they made up their minds to kill him, and, seizing

their weapons for this purpose, went to his house.



But the sly old man, who was terrified for his life that the three

rogues might do him some harm, was on his guard, and said to his

housekeeper, 'Nina, take this bladder, which is filled with blood,

and hide it under your cloak; then when these thieves come I'll

lay all the blame on you, and will pretend to be so angry with you

that I will run at you with my knife, and pierce the bladder with

it; then you must fall on the ground as if you were dead, and

leave the rest to me.'



Hardly had Simon said these words when the three rogues appeared

and fell on him to kill him.



'My friends,' called out Simon to then, 'what do you accuse me of?

I am in no way to blame; perhaps my housekeeper has done you some

injury of which I know nothing.' And with these words, he turned

on Nina with his knife, and stuck it right into her, so that he

pierced the bladder filled with blood. Instantly the housekeeper

fell down as if she were dead, and the blood streamed all over the

ground.



Simon then pretended to be seized with remorse at the sight of

this dreadful catastrophe, and cried out in a loud voice, 'Unhappy

wretch that I am! What have I done? Like a madman I have killed

the woman who is the prop and stay of my old age. How could I ever

go on living without her?' Then he seized a pipe, and when he had

blown into it for some time Nina sprang up alive and well.



The rogues were more amazed than ever; they forgot their anger,

and buying the pipe for two hundred gold pieces, they went

joyfully home.



Not long after this one of them quarrelled with his wife, and in

his rage he thrust his knife into her breast so that she fell dead

on the ground. Then he took Simon's pipe and blew into it with all

his might, in the hopes of calling his wife back to life. But he

blew in vain, for the poor soul was as dead as a door-nail.



When one of his comrades heard what had happened, he said, 'You

blockhead, you can't have done it properly; just let me have a

try,' and with these words he seized his wife by the roots of her

hair, cut her throat with a razor, and then took the pipe and blew

into it with all his might but he couldn't bring her back to life.

The same thing happened to the third rogue, so that they were now

all three without wives.



Full of wrath they ran to Simon's house, and, refusing to listen

to a word of explanation or excuse, they seized the old man and

put him into a sack, meaning to drown him in the neighbouring

river. On their way there, however, a sudden noise threw them into

such a panic that they dropped the sack with Simon in it and ran

for their lives.



Soon after this a shepherd happened to pass by with his flock, and

while he was slowly following the sheep, who paused here and there

by the wayside to browse on the tender grass, he heard a pitiful

voice wailing, 'They insist on my taking her, and I don't want

her, for I am too old, and I really can't have her.' The shepherd

was much startled, for he couldn't make out where these words,

which were repeated more than once, came from, and looked about

him to the right and left; at last he perceived the sack in which

Simon was hidden, and going up to it he opened it and discovered

Simon repeating his dismal complaint. The shepherd asked him why

he had been left there tied up in a sack.



Simon replied that the king of the country had insisted on giving

him one of his daughters as a wife, but that he had refused the

honour because he was too old and too frail. The simple-minded

shepherd, who believed his story implicitly, asked him, 'Do you

think the king of the country would give his daughter to me?'



'Yes, certainly, I know he would,' answered Simon, 'if you were

tied up in this sack instead of me.' Then getting out of the sack,

he tied the confiding shepherd up in it instead, and at his

request fastened it securely and drove the sheep on himself.



An hour had scarcely passed when the three rogues returned to the

place where they had left Simon in the sack, and without opening

it, one of them seized it and threw it into the river. And so the

poor shepherd was drowned instead of Mr. Simon!



The three rogues, having wreaked their vengeance, set out, for

home. On their way they noticed a flock of sheep grazing not far

from the road. They longed to steal a few of the lambs, and

approached the flock, and were more than startled to recognise Mr.

Simon, whom they had drowned in the river, as the shepherd who was

looking after the sheep. They asked him how he had managed to get

out of the river, to which he replied:



'Get along with you--you are no better than silly donkeys without

any sense; if you had only drowned me in deeper water I would have

returned with three times as many sheep.'



When the three rogues heard this, they said to him: 'Oh, dear Mr.

Simon, do us the favour to tie us up in sacks and throw us into

the river that we may give up our thieving ways and become the

owners of flocks.'



'I am ready,' answered Simon, 'to do what you please; there's

nothing in the world I wouldn't do for you.'



So he took three strong sacks and put a man in each of them, and

fastened them up so tightly that they couldn't get out, and then

he threw them all into the river; and that was the end of the

three rogues. But Mr. Simon returned home to his faithful Nina

rich in flocks and gold, and lived for many a year in health and

happiness.





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