LIKE many others in the world, there were a mother and her son; they were poor, and the young man, when he grew up, wished to go from home, to see if he could better his position. His mother lets him go with great reluctance. He goes on, and on, and on through terrible forests. He comes to a beautiful house, and asks if they want a servant. They tell him "Yes," and to come in; and then they tell him how they go at night to rob people, and sometimes to kill them; and they ask if he would go too. He says "Yes,"
and in the middle of the night he sees the chief of the robbers arrive, with all his company, laden with gold and silver; and he remained a long time with them.
One day the chief said to him, "At such an hour a rich gentleman on horseback will pass by such a place, and you must go and rob him; and, if he will not give it up willingly, you must kill him."
Our lad had had enough of this trade; but he told the chief that he would do it. He stays then, waiting for this gentleman, and at last he sees him coming. He presents. himself before him, and says,
"Your purse or your life!"
The gentleman gives him his purse and all the money that he had, and he had a great deal. He said to him, "It is not enough yet. You must give me your fine clothes too, and your horse."
They exchange clothes, and the gentleman goes off, very glad, although he had old clothes on, because he had spared him his life. Instead of returning to the robbers' house, what does our lad do? He goes off on horseback with his money to his mother's house. Everyone was astonished at his arrival, and that he had made his fortune so quickly. He goes to his mother, and judge of her joy! He tells her how it is that he has become so rich, and that it all happened far, far away. His mother told it to others, and at last this news comes to the ears of the mayor, who sends his servant to this young man to tell him to come to his house on the morrow without fault.
He goes then, leaving his mother in tears. His mother told him to tell the mayor how he had made his fortune so quickly. He tells him what business he had pursued, but that it was very far away, and that he had never killed anybody. The mayor said to him,
"If you do not steal my finest horse from my stable this very night, I will have you killed to-morrow." 1
This mayor was very rich, and he had a great many servants and a great many horses. There were three of them finer and more valuable than the others. Our lad goes home and consoles his mother. He asks her to give him his old clothes which he wore formerly, and, putting them over the others, he takes a big stick, and goes off to the mayor's, crawling along like an old man. He knocks at the door, and asks shelter for the night. A lad comes to him, and says--
"We shall not give you shelter in this house to-night. You may go on farther."
But he begs so much, and asks him to give him at least a corner of the stable--that he does not know where to go to--that at last they let him enter, and give him a little straw (to lie down on). Our lad hears what they say to each other. Three lads were to stop till midnight on the three finest horses, and at midnight three other servants were to take their places. What does our lad do? They were asleep on their horses. As soon as he hears midnight, he goes and gives one of them a knock, and says to him,
"It is midnight; go to bed."
Half asleep, the lad goes off to bed; the others were still asleep on their horses. He mounts on the horse--he had chosen the finest--and opens the doors very gently, and goes off at a trot, without looking behind him. He goes home, and his mother is very delighted to see her son.
The next day he goes to market to sell his horse. When the mayor gets up he goes to the stable, and sees that his finest horse is missing. The servants were sleeping on their horses, and the others in bed. He gets into a rage, and does not know what to do. He sends to the mother's to ask her where her son is. She replies that he is gone to sell a horse. They tell her that the mayor summonses him immediately. The mother grows sad again, and tells her son what they have said to her, and off he goes.
The mayor says to him, "What a fellow you are! You won the game yesterday, but if you do not steal from our
oven to-night all the bread that is in it, it shall be all over with you.
The mayor assembles all the municipal council and all his friends, thinking he would have some fun while guarding his oven. They had dances, and music, and games, and brilliant lights, and all sorts of amusements, and all this in front of the oven. What does our lad do? He takes a little hammer, and goes behind the oven. He makes a hole, and by that takes out all the loaves, and puts them in his basket, and goes home.
The next day the mayor was proud because they had not stolen his loaves, and because they had so well guarded the door of the oven, and he sends his servant to fetch a loaf for breakfast. When she opens the door of the oven, she sees the sun through the other end of the oven. Judge of their astonishment! The mayor was in a red-hot passion. He sends to fetch the lad. They go and ask his mother where her son is. She answers, "Selling bread." And they tell the mayor. He sends to tell her to tell her son to come to him as soon as he comes home. The poor mother is again in great distress. When her son arrives, she tells him the message, and off he goes.
The mayor says to him, "Yesterday, too, you have hit the mark; but you have not finished yet. This very night you must steal the sheets which we have under us in our bed, otherwise your life shall be put an end to." 1
He goes home, and he makes an image of himself from his old clothes; and, when night is come, he goes off dragging it to the mayor's. The mayor had placed guards at all the windows and doors, with arms. Our lad ties his image to a long stick, and, by drawing a cord, he hoists it against the wall. When the guards see a man climbing up the wall near a window, they fire, and all begin to cry out "Hurrah!" At this noise the mayor leaps out of bed,
thinking that they have killed him, and that he must go and see him too. Our lad takes advantage of this moment to enter the house, and he goes to the mayor's bed, and says--
"It is cold, it is cold;" and keeps pulling and pulling all the bed-clothes to his side. When he has all, he says to the lady:
"I must go and look again, to be quite sure, and to see if they have buried him."
The wife said to him, "Stop here then; you will come back dead of cold."
He goes off, and escapes very quickly, as well as he can, with the sheets. The others are out-doing each other, one beating, the other stabbing, the other pulling about (the image). At last they go in-doors, quite out of breath. All are pleased, and proud that they have their lad at last down there.
The mayor goes to bed, and his wife says to him:
"Now, at least, you will remain here without any more of this going and coming down there, and making me all cold."
"I have not been going and coming. I!"
"Yes, yes; you were certainly here just now, you too."
He gets into bed, and he keeps turning and moving about, not being able to find the sheets. At last, getting impatient, he lights the candle, and he sees that the sheets are not there. Judge of their anger; they did not know what to do. The wife said to him:
"You had better leave that man alone, or some misfortune will happen to us."
He will not listen to anything, and goes off. He sends to fetch him as soon as daylight comes. They find his mother, and ask her where her son is. She answers:
"He has gone to sell some sheets."
They say to her, "You will send him to the mayor's when he comes home." And this poor woman is again in great trouble, for at last (she thinks) they will make an end
of her son. She sends him again to the mayor's, who says to him:
"This time you shall not escape me. If you do not steal all the money of my brother the priest, you are done for." 1
The brother of the mayor was rector of this town. When evening came our lad hides himself in the church, and dresses himself in the finest of the church robes, (used only) for the highest festivals. He lights all the candles and the lamps, and at midnight he begins to ring all the bells at full swing--dilin, don; dilin, don, don; dilin, don. The rector comes running with his servant to see what is happening in the church, and they see on the high altar someone, who says to them:
"Prostrate yourselves. I am the good God. I am come to fetch you. You must die; but before dying you must bring here all the money, and all the riches that you have in your houses."
The priest goes and brings everything. He makes the priest go to the top of the tower, and says to him:
"You are now going into purgatory, but afterwards you will go to heaven."
He makes him get into a sack, takes hold of one end, and drags him down the stairs, bumping, zimpi eta zampa, on all the steps. He cried, "Ay! ay!" and he says to him:
"This is nothing; soon you will be in heaven."
And he carries him like that to his brother's chicken-house, and leaves him there. The next morning the maid goes to feed the fowls. She sees a sack, and touches it, and the sack moves. The girl goes off running to tell her mistress what she has seen. Her mistress goes and touches it, and the sack does the same thing. She is frozen with fright, and goes to her husband, and says:
"You see that I told you right to let that man alone. At present, what will become of us? What can there be in that sack?"
The gentleman immediately sends someone to fetch this lad. He was just at that moment at home, and they tell him that the mayor orders him to come directly. They tell him to open the sack. He touches it, and the sack gives a leap; and he says that he will not open it, not for ten thousand francs.
"I will give you ten thousand francs."
"No! not for twenty thousand."
"I will give them you."
"No, no, no I not even for forty thousand."
"I will give you thirty thousand."
"No, no, no, no I not even for forty thousand."
"And for fifty thousand?"
He agreed to open it, and he hands them their brother, the priest, whom he had left without a sou. After having got his fifty thousand francs, our lad went off well satisfied to his home, and lived there rich with his mother; and the mayor lived with his brother, the priest, poorer than he was before. And if they had lived well, they would have died well too.
140:2 This is a very old and wide-spread story. The Gaelic versions are given in Campbell, Vol. II., p. 239, seq. Cf. also Cox, "Aryan Mythology," Vol. I., p. iii, seq.
141:1 In the Gaelic it is the bishop's horse.
143:1 This is in the Norse and Teutonic versions.
145:1 This, again, is more like the Gaelic.