HANS had served his master seven long years; so he said to him: “Master, my time is out, and my wish is to return home to my mother: give me, if you please, my reward.”
The master answered: “Thou hast truly and faithfully served me; as the service was, so shall the reward be.” And he gave Hans a piece of gold as big as his head.
Hans pulled out his handkerchief, wrapped up the lump of gold in it, and, throwing it over his shoulder, made his way home. As he went on his way, always putting one foot before the other, he met a man galloping briskly along on a fine horse.
“Ah!” said Hans, quite aloud, “what a capital thing it is to ride! There you sit as comfortably as in a chair, kicking against no stones, saving your shoe-leather, and getting to your journey’s end almost without knowing it!”
The horseman, who heard this, pulled up and cried, “Hullo, Hans why do you trudge on foot?”
“Because I must,” answered he; “for I have this big lump to carry home. It is real gold, you know; but, all the same, I can scarcely hold up my head, it weighs so terribly on my shoulders.”
“I’ll tell you what,” said the horseman: “we’ll just exchange. I’ll give you my horse and you give me your lump of gold.”
“With all my heart!” said Hans. “But I warn you, you’ll have a job to carry it.”
The horseman dismounted, took the gold, and helped Hans up; and, giving the bridle into his hand, said: “If you want him to go at full speed, you must cluck with your tongue and cry ‘C’ck! c’ck!'”
Hans was heartily delighted, as he sat on his horse and rode gaily along.
After a while he fancied he would like to go faster, so he began to cluck with his tongue and cry “C’ck! c’ck!” The horse broke into a smart trot, and before Hans was aware he was thrown off—splash!—into a ditch which divided the highway from the fields, and there he lay. The horse, too, would have run away had it not been stopped by a peasant, as he came along the road, driving his cow before him.
Hans pulled himself together and got upon his legs again. He felt very downcast, and said to the peasant: “It’s a poor joke, that riding, especially when one lights upon such a brute as this, which kicks and throws one off so that one comes near to breaking one’s neck. You don’t catch me on his back again. Now, there’s more sense in a cow like yours, behind which you can walk in peace and quietness, besides having your butter, milk, and cheese every morning for certain. What would I not give for such a cow!”
“Well,” said the peasant, “if it would give you so much pleasure, I will exchange my cow for your horse.”
Hans gladly consented, and the peasant flung himself on the horse and rode quickly off.
Hans drove the cow peacefully along, thinking: “What a lucky fellow I am! I have just to get a bit of bread (and that isn’t a difficult matter) and then, as often as I like, I can eat my butter and cheese with it. If I am thirsty, I just milk my cow and drink. What more could I desire?”
When he came to an inn, he made a stop, and in his great joy ate all the food he had with him right up, both dinner and supper.
With his two last farthings, he bought himself half a glass of beer. Then he drove his cow towards his mother’s village.
As the morning went on, the more oppressive the heat became, and Hans found himself in a field some three miles long.
Then he felt so hot that his tongue was parched with thirst. “This is soon cured,” thought Hans. “I have only to milk my cow, drink, and refresh myself.”
He tied the cow to a withered tree, and as he had no pitcher he placed his leathern cap underneath her; but in spite of all his trouble not a drop of milk could be got.
And he went to work so clumsily that the impatient brute gave him such a kick with her hind leg that he was knocked over and quite dazed, and for a long time did not know where he was.
Luckily a butcher came by just then, wheeling a young pig in a barrow.
“What kind of joke is this?” cried he, helping our friend Hans to rise.
Hans told him what had happened. The butcher passed him his bottle and said:
“There, drink and revive yourself. That cow will never give any milk; she is an old animal and, at the best, is only fit for the plow or the butcher.”
“Oho!” said Hans, running his fingers through his hair. “Who would have thought it? It is all right indeed when you can slaughter such a beast in your own house. But I don’t think much of cow’s flesh; it is not tender enough. Now, if one had a young pig! That would taste far different, to say nothing of the sausages!”
“Listen, Hans,” said the butcher. “For your sake, I will exchange, and let you have my pig for your cow.”
“May Heaven reward your friendship!” said Hans, and at once gave him the cow.
The man untied the pig from the wheelbarrow, and gave the rope with which it was bound into Hans’s hand.
Hans marched on, thinking: “What a lucky fellow I am. As soon as anything goes wrong, something turns up and all’s right again.”
Just then, up came a youth, carrying a fine white goose under [page 136]his arm. They were friends, and Hans began to talk about his luck and how he always came off best in his exchanges. The youth told him he was taking the goose to a christening feast.
“Just hold it,” he continued, seizing it by the wings, “and feel how heavy it is: yet it was only fattened for eight weeks. It will be a rich morsel when roasted.”
“Yes,” said Hans, weighing it with his hand, “it is certainly heavy, but my pig is by no means to be despised.”
Meanwhile the lad was looking thoughtfully around, shaking his head. “Listen,” he said, “I don’t think it’s all right about your pig. In the village I have just come through, one has lately been stolen from the magistrate’s own sty. I fear it is the one you have. They have sent people out, and it would be a bad business if they found you with the pig. The least they would do would be to throw you into jail.”
Our friend Hans was downcast. “Alas,” he cried, “help me in my need! You know your way here better than I. Take my pig then, and give me your goose.”
“I shall be running great risks,” said the youth, “but at least I will prevent your getting into trouble.”
He took the rope in his hand and drove the pig quickly away down a by-path, and Hans went on relieved of his sorrow, towards home, with the goose under his arm.
“What a lucky fellow I am!” he said to himself. “First, I shall have a good roast; then there is the quantity of dripping that will fall out, which will keep me in bread-and-dripping for a quarter of a year; and lastly, the splendid white feathers, with which I will have my pillow stuffed; then I shall fall asleep without rocking. How glad my mother will be!”
When he was at length come to the village, there stood in the street a scissors-grinder with his truck. His wheel hummed, and he sang the while:
“My wheel I turn, and the scissors I grind,
And my cloak hangs flowing free in the wind.”
Hans remained standing, and watched him; at length he spoke to him, and said:
“You must be doing well since you are so merry over your grinding.”
“Yes,” said the scissors-grinder; “the work has gold at the bottom of it. A proper scissors-grinder is the sort of man who, whenever he puts his hand in his pocket, finds money there. But where have you bought that fine goose?”
“I did not buy it, but exchanged it for my pig.”
“And the pig?”
“I obtained him for a cow.”
“And the cow?”
“I had her for a horse.”
“And the horse?”
“For him I gave a lump of gold as big as my head.”
“And the gold?”
“Why, that was my reward for seven years of service.”
“You have certainly done well for yourself each time,” said the scissors-grinder. “If you could only hear money rattling in your pocket every time you got up, your fortune would be made.”
“How shall I set about it?” said Hans.
“You must become a grinder, like me. All you want is a grindstone: the rest comes of itself. I have one which is a little damaged indeed, but for which I would ask nothing more than your goose; would that suit you?”
“How can you ask me?” answered Hans. “I shall be the luckiest fellow on earth. If I have money as often as I feel in my pocket, what else shall I have to care about?” And he handed over the goose, and took the grindstone in receipt.
“Now,” said the grinder, lifting up an ordinary heavy field-stone, which lay beside him. “There you have a capital stone, which will be just the thing to hammer your old nails straight upon. Take it and lift it up carefully.”
Hans raised the stone and marched on with a joyful heart, his eyes shining with pleasure.
“I must have been born lucky,” he cried out. “All that I desire comes to me, as to a Sunday-child.”
Meanwhile, having been on his legs since daybreak, he began to feel tired; besides which, he was tormented by hunger, for he had eaten up all his provision in his joy over the exchange of the cow.
At length he could only proceed with great trouble and must needs stop every minute; the stones, too, crushed him terribly. Then he could not conceal the thought: “How nice it would be now to have nothing to carry!”
Like a snail he crept up to a well, wishing to rest himself and enjoy a refreshing drink.
In order not to spoil the stones in setting them down, he laid them carefully on the ground one beside the other, and bent himself down to drink, but by an accident he gave them a little push, and both stones went splashing down.
Hans, when he saw them sinking in the depths of the well, jumped up with joy, kneeled down and thanked God, with tears in his eyes, that He had shown him this grace and, without troubling him to think what to do with them, had relieved him of the heavy stones which would have been such a hindrance to him.
“There is no man under the sun,” he cried out, “so lucky as I.”
With a bright heart and free from all care, he sprang upon his way, until he was home at his mother’s.