Gateway to the Classics: Merry Tales by Eleanor L. Skinner and Ada M. Skinner
Merry Tales by  Eleanor L. Skinner and Ada M. Skinner

The Hillman and the Housewife

Juliana H. Ewing

O NE day a hillman knocked at the door of a selfish housewife.

"Can you lend me a saucepan, good mother?" said he. "There's a wedding in the hill, and all the pots are in use."

Is he to have one?" asked the servant girl who had opened the door.

"Ay, to be sure," said the housewife. But when the maid was taking a saucepan from the shelf, the housewife whispered slyly to her, "Do not lend him a good pan; get the old one out of the cupboard. It leaks, and the hillmen are so neat and such nimble workers that they are sure to mend it before they send it home. So one does a good turn and saves sixpence from the tinker."

The maid fetched the old saucepan which had been laid by till the tinker's next visit and gave it to the dwarf, who thanked her and went away.

The saucepan was soon returned neatly mended and ready for use. At supper time the maid filled the pan with milk and set it on the fire for the children's supper, but in a few minutes the milk was so burned and smoked that no one could touch it. Even the pigs would not drink the wash into which the milk was thrown.

"Ah, you good-for-nothing girl!" cried the housewife as this time she filled the pan herself. "Your careless ways would ruin the richest. There's a whole quart of milk spoiled at once."

"A quart of milk costs twopence!" cried a queer small voice from the chimney corner.

The housewife had not left the saucepan for two minutes when the milk boiled over and was all burned and smoked as before.

"The pan must be dirty," cried the housewife in a rage; "and there are two full quarts of milk as good as thrown to the dogs. Oh, what dreadful waste!"

"Two quarts of milk cost fourpence!" cried the queer small voice.

After a long scrubbing, the saucepan was once more filled with milk and set on the fire, but in a little while the milk was burned and smoked again.

The housewife burst into tears at the waste, and cried out, "Never before did such a thing happen to me since I kept house! Three quarts of milk burned for one meal."

"Three quarts of milk cost sixpence!" cried the queer small voice. "You didn't save the tinker after all!"

Then the hillman himself came tumbling down the chimney and went off laughing through the door. But from that time the saucepan was as good as any other.

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