1.HANS IN LUCK
Some men are born lucky. All they do or try to do comes right—all that happens to them is so much gain, they will always, like a cat, land on their feet.
One of these lucky people was Hans. For seven long years he had worked hard for his master. At last he said, ‘Master, my time is up. I must go home and see my poor mother once more. So please pay me my wages and let me go.’ The master said, ‘You have been a faithful and good servant, Hans, so your pay shall be great.’ Then he gave him a piece of silver as big as his head.
Hans took out his handkerchief, put the piece of silver into it, threw it over his shoulder, and walked off on his road homewards. As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after another, a man came in sight, trotting happily along on a horse. ‘Ah!’ said Hans aloud, ‘what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback! There he sits as easy and happy as if he was at home, in the chair by his fireside. He trips against no stones, saves shoe-leather, and travels so easily.’ Hans did not speak so softly so the horseman heard it all, and said, ‘Well, friend, why do you go on foot then?’ ‘Ah!’ he said, ‘I have this load to carry. It is silver, but it is so heavy that I can’t hold up my head, and it hurts my shoulder.’ ‘What do you say of making an exchange?’ said the horseman. ‘I will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver; which will save you a great deal of trouble in carrying such a heavy load about with you.’ ‘With all my heart,’ said Hans. ‘But as you are so kind to me, I must tell you one thing—you will have a weary task to carry that silver about with you.’ However, the horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into one hand and the whip into the other, and said, ‘When you want to go very fast, smack your lips loudly together, and cry “Jip!”‘
Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse, drew himself up, cracked his whip, and rode merrily off whistling a merry tune, .
After a time he thought he should like to go a little faster, so he smacked his lips and cried 'Jip!' Away went the horse full gallop, and before Hans knew what was happening, he was thrown off, and landed on his back by the road-side. His horse would have run off, if a shepherd who was coming by, driving a cow, had not stopped it. Hans soon came to himself, and stood up again, sadly troubled, and said to the shepherd, 'This riding is no joke. However, I'm off now once for all. I like your cow now a great deal better than this beast that played this trick on me, and has spoiled my best coat, you see, in this puddle. One can walk along at one's leisure behind that cow—keep good company, and have milk, butter, and cheese, every day, as well. What would I give to have such a prize!' 'Well,' said the shepherd, 'if you are so fond of her, I will change my cow for your horse; I like to do good to my neighbours, even though I lose by it myself.' 'Done!' said Hans, merrily. 'What a good heart that man has!' thought he. Then the shepherd jumped up on the horse, wished Hans and the cow good morning, and away he rode.
Hans brushed his coat, wiped his face and hands, rested a while, and then drove off his cow quietly, and thought his bargain a very lucky one. ‘If I have only a piece of bread, I can, whenever I like, eat my butter and cheese with it. And when I am thirsty I can milk my cow and drink the milk. What more could I wish for?’ When he came to an inn, he halted, ate up all his bread, and gave away his last penny for a glass of beer. When he had rested himself he set off again, driving his cow towards his mother’s village. But the heat grew greater as the Sun rose higher, till at last, as he found himself on a wide heath that would take him more than an hour to cross. He began to be so hot and parched that his tongue stuck to the roof of his mouth. ‘I can find a cure for this,’ he thought. ‘Now I will milk my cow and quench my thirst’. So he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his cup to milk into. But not a drop was to be had. Who would have thought that this cow, which was to bring him milk and butter and cheese, was all that time utterly dry? Hans had not thought of that.
While he was trying his luck in milking, and managing the matter very clumsily, the cow began to think him very troublesome and at last gave him such a kick on the head which knocked him down. He lay there a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher soon came by, driving a pig in a wheelbarrow. ‘What is the matter with you, my man?’ said the butcher, as he helped him up. Hans told him what had happened, how he was dry, and wanted to milk his cow, but found the cow was dry too. Then the butcher gave him a flask of ale, saying, ‘there, drink and refresh yourself. Your cow will give you no milk. Don’t you see she is an old beast, good for nothing but the slaughter-house?’ ‘Alas, alas!’ said Hans, ‘who would have thought it? What a shame to take my horse, and give me only a dry cow! If I kill her, what will she be good for? I hate beef. It is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig now—like that fat pig you are driving—one could do something with it. It would at any rate make sausages.’ ‘Well,’ said the butcher, ‘I don’t like to say no, when one is asked to do a kind, neighbourly thing. To please you I will change, and give you my fine fat pig for the cow.’ ‘Heaven reward you for your kindness!’ said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow; and taking the pig off the wheel-barrow, drove it away, holding it by the string that was tied to its leg.
So, on he walked, and all seemed now to go right with him. He had met with some misfortunes, to be sure, but he was now well repaid for all. How could it be otherwise with such a travelling companion as he had at last got?
The next man he met was a countryman carrying a fine white goose. The countryman stopped to ask what the time was. This led to further chatting and Hans told him all his luck, how he had so many good bargains, and how all the world went happy and smiling with him. The countryman than began to tell his tale, and said he was going to take the goose to a christening. ‘Feel,’ he said, ‘how heavy it is, and yet it is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it will find plenty of fat on it, it has lived so well!’ ‘You’re right,’ said Hans, as he weighed it in his hand; ‘but if you talk of fat, my pig is better.’ Meantime the countryman began to look serious, and shook his head. Listen!’ he said, ‘my friend, you seem a good sort of fellow, so I can’t help doing you a kind turn. Your pig may get you into trouble. In the village I just came from, the squire has had a pig stolen out of his sty. I was dreadfully afraid when I saw you in case you had got the squire’s pig. If you have, and they catch you, it will be a bad for you. The least they will do will be to throw you into the pond. Can you swim?’
Poor Hans was sadly frightened. ‘Good man,’ he cried, ‘please get me out of this. I know nothing of where the pig was either bred or born, but he may have been the squire’s for all I can tell. You know this country better than I do, take my pig and give me the goose.’ ‘I ought to have something,’ said the countryman; ‘give a fat goose for a pig, indeed! ‘It is not everyone would do so much for you as that. However, I will not be hard upon you, as you are in trouble.’ Then he took the string in his hand, and drove off the pig by a side path, while Hans went on the way homewards free from care. ‘After all,’ he thought, ‘ I don’t care whose pig it is, but wherever it came from it has been a very good friend to me. I have much the best of the bargain. First there will be a wonderful roast and then there are all the beautiful white feathers. I will put them into my pillow, and then I am sure I shall sleep soundly. How happy my mother will be! Talk of a pig, indeed! Give me a fine fat goose.’
As he came to the next village, he saw a scissor-grinder with his wheel, working and singing,
Hans stood looking on for a while, and at last said, ‘You must be well off, master grinder! You seem so happy at your work.’ ‘Yes,’ said the other, ‘mine is a golden trade. A good grinder never puts his hand into his pocket without finding money in it—but where did you get that beautiful goose?’ ‘I did not buy it; I gave a pig for it.’ ‘And where did you get the pig?’ ‘I gave a cow for it.’ ‘And the cow?’ ‘I gave a horse for it.’ ‘And the horse?’ ‘I gave a lump of silver as big as my head for it.’ ‘And the silver?’ ‘Oh! I worked hard for that for seven long years.’ ‘You have done well in the world up to now,’ said the grinder, ‘now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you put your hand in it, your fortune would be made.’ ‘Very true. But how is that to be managed?’ ‘How? Why, you must become a grinder like myself,’ said the other; ‘you only need a grindstone and the rest will come by itself. Here is one that is quite good. I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it—will you buy it?’ ‘How can you ask?’ said Hans. ‘I should be the happiest man in the world, if I could have money whenever I put my hand in my pocket. What more could I want? There’s the goose.’ ‘Now,’ said the grinder, as he gave him a rough ordinary stone that lay by his side, ‘this is a most wonderful stone. If you work well with it you can sharpen anything.’
Hans took the stone, and went on his way with a light heart. His eyes sparkled for joy, and he said to himself, ‘Surely I must have been born in a lucky hour; everything I could want or wish for comes by itself. People are so kind. They seem really to think I do them a favour in letting them make me rich, and giving me good bargains.’
Meantime he began to be tired and hungry too, for he had given away his last penny in his joy at getting the cow.
At last he could go no farther, for the stone tired him out. He dragged himself to the side of a river, so that he could take a drink of water, and rest a while. So he laid the stone carefully by his side on the bank. But, as he stooped down to drink, he forgot it, pushed it a little, and down it rolled, plump into the stream.
For a while he watched it sinking in the deep clear water; then sprang up and danced for joy, and again fell upon his knees and thanked Heaven, with tears in his eyes, for its kindness in taking away his only problem, the ugly heavy stone.
‘How happy am I!’ he cried. ‘Nobody was ever so lucky as I.’ Then up he got with a light heart, free from all his troubles, and walked on till he reached his mother’s house, and told her how very easy the road to good luck was.