Gateway to the Classics: A Child's Book of Stories by Penrhyn W. Coussens
A Child's Book of Stories by  Penrhyn W. Coussens

Hans in Luck

H ANS had served his master seven years, and at last said to him: "Master, my time is up; I should like to go home and see my mother; so give me my wages." And the master said: "You have been a faithful and good servant, so your pay shall be handsome." Then he gave him a piece of silver that was as big as his head.

Hans took out his pocket handkerchief, put the piece of silver into it, threw it over his shoulder, and jogged off homeward. As he went lazily on, dragging one foot after the other, a man came in sight, trotting along gayly on a capital horse. "Ah!" cried Hans aloud, "what a fine thing it is to ride on horseback!" He trips against no stones, spares his shoes, and yet gets on he hardly knows how." The horseman heard this, and said: "Well, Hans, why do you go on foot, then?" "Ah," said he, "I have this heavy load to carry; to be sure it is silver, but it is so heavy that I can't hold up my head, and it hurts my shoulders sadly." "What do you say to changing?" said the horseman; "I will give you my horse, and you shall give me the silver." "With all my heart," said Hans; "but I tell you one thing,—you'll have a weary task to drag it along." The horseman got off, took the silver, helped Hans up, gave him the bridle into his hands, and said: "When you want to go very fast, you must smack your lips loud, and cry 'Jip.' "

Hans was delighted as he sat on the horse and rode merrily on. 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 he was about he was thrown off, and lay in a ditch by the roadside; and 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 got up on his legs again. He was sadly vexed and said to the shepherd: "This riding is no joke when a man gets on a beast like this, that stumbles and flings him off as if he would break his neck. However, I am off now once for all: I like your cow a great deal better; one can walk along at one's leisure behind her, and have milk, butter, and cheese every day into the bargain. What would I give to have such a cow!" "Well," said the shepherd, "if you are so fond of her, I will exchange my cow for your horse." "Done!" said Hans merrily. The shepherd jumped upon the horse, and away he rode.

Hans 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 can I wish for more?" When he came to an inn, he halted, ate up all his bread, and gave his last penny for a glass of beer: then he drove his cow towards his mother's village: and the heat grew greater as noon came on, till he began to be so hot and parched that his tongue clave to the roof of his mouth. "I can find a cure for this," thought he, "now will I milk my cow and quench my thirst;" so he tied her to the stump of a tree, and held his leathern cap to milk into; but not a drop was to be had.

While he was trying his luck and managing the matter very clumsily, the uneasy beast gave him a kick on the head that knocked him down, and there he lay a long while senseless. Luckily a butcher soon came by, wheeling a pig in a wheelbarrow. "What is the matter with you?" said the butcher, as he helped him up. Hans told him what had happened, and the butcher gave him a flask, saying: "There, drink and refresh yourself; your cow will give you no milk, she is an old beast good for nothing but the slaughter-house." "Alas, alas!" said Hans, "who would have thought it? If I kill her, what would she be good for? I hate cow beef, it is not tender enough for me. If it were a pig, now, one could do something with it; it would, at any rate, make some sausages."

"Well," said the butcher, "to please you I'll change, and give you the pig for the cow." "Heaven reward you for your kindness!" said Hans, as he gave the butcher the cow, and took the pig off the wheelbarrow, and drove it off, holding it by the string that was tied to its leg.

So on he jogged, and all seemed now to go right with him. The next person he met was a countryman, carrying a fine white goose under his arm. The countryman stopped to ask what o'clock it was; and Hans told him all his luck, and how he had made so many bargains. The countryman said he was going to take the goose to a christening. "Feel," said he, "how heavy it is, and yet it is only eight weeks old. Whoever roasts and eats it, may cut plenty of fat off it, it has lived so well!" "You're right," said Hans, as he felt it in his hand; "but my pig is heavy too." Meantime the countryman began to look grave, and shook his head. "Listen, my friend," said he, "your pig may get you into trouble; in the village I have just come from, the squire has had a pig stolen from his sty. I was very much afraid, when I saw you, that you had the squire's pig; it will be hard for you if you are caught, because you will be thrown into the horse-pond."

Poor Hans was badly frightened. "Good man," cried he, "help me out of this scrape; you know this country better than I; take my pig and give me the goose." "I ought to have something into the bargain," said the countryman; "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, and Hans went on his way homewards, free from care.

As he came to the last village, he saw a scissors-grinder, working away at his grinding, and singing. Hans watched him for a while, and then said, "You must be well off, master-grinder, you seem to be so happy." "Yes," said the other, "mine is a fine trade; a good grinder always has money in his pocket. But where did you get that splendid goose?" "I did not buy it, but exchanged 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 piece of silver as big as my head for that." "And the silver?" "Oh! I worked hard for that seven long years." "You have done well in the world hitherto," said the grinder; "now if you could find money in your pocket whenever you put your hand into it, your fortune would be made." "That is true: but how is that to be done?" "You must turn grinder like me," said the other, "all you want is a grindstone; the rest will come of itself. This one is a little the worse for wear: I would not ask more than the value of your goose for it;—will you buy?" "How can you ask me such a question?" said Hans; "I should be the happiest man in the world if I could always have money in my pocket; what more could I wish for? Take the goose!" "Now," said the grinder, as he gave him a rough stone that lay by his side, "this is an excellent stone; manage it properly, and you can make a rusty nail cut with it."

Hans took the stone and went off with a light heart, and he said to himself: "I must have been born under a lucky star, for everything that I wish for comes to me of itself."

Meantime he began to feel tired, for he had traveled ever since daybreak; he was hungry, too, for he had given away his last penny in his joy at getting the cow. At last he could go no further, and the stone tired him very much; so he dragged himself to the edge of a pond, that he might drink and rest; 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 went into the pond. For a while he watched it sinking in the deep clear water, then sprang up for joy, and again fell upon his knees, and thanked heaven for taking away his only plague, the heavy stone. "How happy am I," cried he: "no one was ever so lucky as I am." Then he got up with a light and merry heart, and went on free from all his troubles, till he reached his mother's house.

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