Gateway to the Classics: Good Stories for Great Holidays by Frances Jenkins Olcott
Good Stories for Great Holidays by  Frances Jenkins Olcott

The Hillman and the Housewife


It is well known that the Fairy People cannot abide meanness. They like to be liberally dealt with when they beg or borrow of the human race; and, on the other hand, to those who come to them in need, they are invariably generous.

Now there once lived a certain housewife who had a sharp eye to her own interests, and gave alms of what she had no use for, hoping to get some reward in return. One day a Hillman knocked at her door.

"Can you lend us 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 lass who had opened the door.

"Aye, to be sure," answered the housewife; "one must be neighborly."

But when the maid was taking a saucepan from the shelf, the housewife pinched her arm and whispered sharply: "Not that, you good-for-nothing! 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 obliges the Fairy People, and saves sixpence in tinkering!"

Thus bidden the maid fetched the saucepan, which had been laid by until the tinker's next visit, and gave it to the Hillman, who thanked her and went away.

In due time the saucepan was returned, and, as the housewife had foreseen, it was 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 burnt and smoked that no one could touch it, and even the pigs refused to drink it.

"Ah, good-for-nothing hussy!" cried the housewife, as she refilled the pan herself, "you would ruin the richest with your carelessness! There's a whole quart of good milk wasted at once!"

"And that 's twopence!"  cried a voice that seemed to come from the chimney, in a whining tone, like some discontented old body going over her grievances.

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

"The pan must be dirty," muttered the good woman in vexation, "and there are two full quarts of milk as good as thrown to the dogs."

"And that 's fourpence!"  added the voice in the chimney.

After a thorough cleaning the saucepan was once more filled and set on the fire, but with no better success. The milk boiled over again, and was hopelessly spoiled. The housewife shed tears of anger at the waste and cried: "Never before did such a thing befall me since I kept house! Three quarts of new milk burnt for one meal."

"And that 's sixpence!"  cried the voice in the chimney. "You did n't save the tinkering after all, mother!"

With that the Hillman himself came tumbling down from the chimney, and went off laughing through the door.

But from then on the saucepan was as good as any other.

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