The Clever Student and the Master of Black Arts
HE wood-chopper's son was not content to follow in the steps of his father, and to do nothing better than make fagots all the days of his life. So off he went to the great school at the capital, and there he studied and studied until he became the cleverest student in all the world. But of this his father thought nothing, for he had no care to know more than he could see in front of his nose.
"I can speak sixteen languages," said the Clever Student, "I am a master-hand at geometry and astronomy, and I know quite as much of black art as the Great Master himself."
"But can you chop wood?" said the wood-chopper, "and can you bind the fagots?"
No; the Clever Student knew nothing of that trade, but there were better eggs in Luck's nest than wood-chopping. He knew enough of the black art to be able to change himself into a fine, dapple-gray nag whenever he chose, and by no more than the turning of a word or two. That he would do, and the old wood-chopper should take him to the town and sell him for fifty dollars.
"But there is one thing you must remember," said the Clever Student, "you must take the bridle from off my head when you sell me, for so long as it is on me I must, willy-nilly, remain a horse. The Great Master of Black Arts would like nothing better than to catch me in such a trap as that, for his books tell him that he is to have bad luck through me, and he has been after me for this many a day."
The wood-chopper promised to remember all that the Clever Student told him, and then the other went around back of the house and changed himself into a fine, dapple-gray horse. The wood-chopper slipped a bridle over the nag's nose and a leg over his back, and then off he rode towards the town.
On and on they jogged till they came to where two roads crossed, and there stood one who looked no better than he should. This was the Great Master of Black Arts himself; but of that the wood-chopper knew nothing at all.
"How do you find yourself, friend?" said the Master of Black Arts to the wood-chopper; "that is a fine horse that you have there, to be sure. Is he for sale now?"
"Yes," said the wood-chopper, "the nag is for sale, and fifty dollars will buy him—only the bridle does not go along with the horse."
Good! The wood-chopper might keep the bridle and welcome; but palm to palm for a true sale, and here was the money.
So they shook hands, and then the Master of Black Arts counted out the money, and the wood-chopper pocketed it, and he had never rubbed his fingers over so much in all of his life before.
Then, as quick as a wink, the Master of Black Arts drew a bridle out of his pocket. It was thin as a wire and as light as silk, yet I tell you the truth when I say that if he had ever slipped it over the nose of the Clever Student it would have been an ill thing for him.
But the Student had his eyes open, and his wits about him. No sooner had his father taken the bridle off of him than—whisk! pop!—he changed himself into a pigeon and away he flew till the wind whistled behind him.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that, that he did. Whisk! pop!—and he became a hawk, and away he flew after the pigeon, and all that the wood-chopper could do was to stand and look after them—But he had the fifty dollars in his pocket, and that was something and more or less.
On and on flew the two, and if the pigeon flew fast, why, the hawk flew faster.
By and by they came to the shore of a great sea. And that was a good thing for the Clever Student, for, just as the hawk was about to grip him, he dropped to the water and became a little fish, and away he swam.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that. Down to the water he dropped and became a pike, and after the little fish he swam till the water boiled behind him.
On and on they swam, and if the little fish swam fast, why, the great pike swam faster. On and on they swam till they came to a place where a beautiful princess, as white and as red as milk and rose leaves, was walking along beside the shore gathering pretty shells into a little basket. And that was a good thing for the Clever Student, for just as the Master of Black Arts was about to catch him he changed himself into a ruby ring and jumped out of the sea and into the basket of the princess, and there he was safe and sound.
Presently the princess looked down into the basket, and there lay the ring. "What a pretty ring!" said she. "And how came it here?"
She slipped it upon her finger, and it fitted as though it had been made for nobody in the world but her. As for the Clever Student, he liked to be there, I can tell you, for he thought that he had never seen such a pretty lass.
Well, by and by the princess had gathered all the shells that she wanted, and then she went back home again.
When she had come there and to her own little room, all of a sudden a tall, good-looking young fellow stood before her. That was the Clever Student, who had changed himself back into his own true shape again. At first the princess was ever so frightened, but the Student talked to her so pleasantly that she began after a while to think that she had never seen such a nice, clever young fellow. So they passed the time very pleasantly together until evening drew near, and then the Student had to go.
But the Master of Black Arts was not at the end of his tricks yet.
And the Clever Student knew that as well as he knew anything.
"See, now," said he to the princess, "the Master will be coming after me before long. When he comes he will ask for the ruby ring, and he must have it, but I have a trick in my head to meet that."
He cut off a lock of his hair and then pricked his arm till it bled. With the blood he wet the hair, and by his arts he made of it a ruby ring so like what he himself had been that even the princess herself could not have told the one from the other. After that he changed himself into a necklace of carbuncles, and the princess was just as fond of it as she had been of the ring.
Sure enough, it happened just as the Clever Student had foretold. Before a great while the Master of Black Arts came along and on his arm he carried a basket. Rap! tap! tap! he knocked at the door of the king's house. Down went one and asked him what he wanted.
Oh! he only wanted to see the king; he had something for him here in the basket. So he was shown up to where the king was, and then he opened the basket and in it was a little black hen.
"Only a little black hen!" you say? Wait; you should hear all before you speak!
The Master of Black Arts stood the little black hen on the table. "Hickety-pickety!" said he, and before the king knew what to think of it the little black hen had laid an egg all of pure silver. And that hen was worth the having.
As for the king, bless me! but he was glad to have such a hen as that. If the master wanted anything that the king could give him, he had only to ask for it and it was as good as his.
"So; good!" says the Black Master, "then there is a little ruby ring that the princess wears and that I have taken a fancy to; if I may have that it will be all that I ask for."
Oh! if that was all that he wanted he would have it and welcome, that was what the king said. So the pretty princess was sent for, and the king asked her if she would give the Master of Black Arts the ruby ring that she wore.
"Oh, yes!" says the princess, "he shall have that and welcome, for I have grown tired of it long ago." So she gave it to him, and off he went on the same path that he had come.
As soon as he had reached home, he put the ring into a mortar and ground it up until it was as fine as flour in the mill.
"There!" said he to himself, "that is an end of the Clever Student at any rate."
After that he went back to his books again and began to read them, and then he soon found how he had been tricked by the Clever Student.
The princess and the Clever Student were sitting together. "See, now," said the Student, "the Master of Black Arts will be coming this way again in a little while. He will be wanting the necklace of carbuncles, and you will have to let him have it. But I have a trick for his trick yet, so that perhaps we will get the better of him in the end."
So the Clever Student did as he had done before; he pricked his arm till it bled, and with the blood he wet a lock of his hair. Then by his arts he changed the lock of hair into just such a necklace of carbuncles as he himself had been. After that he changed himself into a pearl ear-drop, and the princess hung him in her ear, and there he dangled.
Sure enough; by and by came along the Master of Black Arts with another basket. And you may believe that they did not let him cool his toes by long standing outside the door. He opened his basket, and in it was a white drake.
"Only a white drake!" you say? Yes, yes; but just wait for a little!
The Master of Black Arts stood the drake on the table and said, "Spickety-lickety!"
"Quack! quack!" said the drake, and every time it said "quack" a gold piece dropped from its mouth.
Hui! if the king was pleased with the little black hen, you can guess how glad he was to have such a drake as that! All that the Master of Black Arts had to do was to ask for what he wanted, and he might have it if the king had it to give.
"Good!" says the Master of Black Arts; "then the princess has a necklace of carbuncles that I have taken a fancy to; if I may have that I will be satisfied."
So the princess was sent for without waiting longer, and would she let the Master have the necklace of carbuncles that she wore around her neck?
"Yes, indeed!" says the princess, "that I will! I have grown sick and tired of it long ago." So she took it off of her neck and gave it to the Master of Black Arts, and off he went with it.
When he came home he put the necklace into the mortar, just as he had done the ring, and ground it up and ground it up until it was as fine as the dust on the shelf. There! he thought, that is an end of the Clever Student at any rate.
Then he went back to his books, and it was not long before he found that he had been tricked again.
"I can make no more changes," said the Student, "for I am nearly at the end of my arts. The Black Master will be wanting your ear-drop when he comes, but, instead of giving it to him, throw it against the wall as hard as you can. After that we shall have to trust to good Mother Luck."
It was not long before the Master of Black Arts came with his basket on his arm, just as he had done twice before; he opened the basket, and there was a grey goose.
"Only a grey goose!" you say? Wait a moment, and you shall see that it was not like any grey goose in our town!
The Master of Black Arts stood the grey goose on the table; "Flickety-whickety!" said he.
"Cackle! cackle!" said the grey goose, and every time it said "cackle" a bright diamond dropped on the table.
When the king saw that he rubbed his hands and rubbed his hands, and could not say enough of thanks to the Master of Black Arts. And what would the Master have now? He had only to ask and it was his.
"Oh!" says the Master of Black Arts, "the princess has a pearl ear-drop that I have taken a liking to; if I may have that I will be quite satisfied."
So the princess was sent for, and this time she was not so willing to let the Master have what he wanted. She wept and begged, and begged and wept; but it was all to no purpose; the Master of Black Arts wanted the pearl ear-drop, and the Master of Black Arts must have it—that was what the king said. So at last the princess took the pearl ear-drop out of her ear, but instead of giving it to the Master, she threw it against the wall as hard as she was able, just as the Clever Student had told her to do.
And then what do you think happened? Why, the Student turned himself into a ripe melon, so that when it struck the wall it burst open and the seeds that were inside were scattered all over the floor.
But the Master of Black Arts knew a trick as good as that. He changed himself into a great red cock, and began pecking away at the seeds, gobbling them up as fast as he could. By and by he looked around, and not another seed could he see, whereupon he hopped up on a chair and shutting his eyes and flapping his wings, he crowed "cock-a-doodle-do!"
But listen! One melon-seed had rolled into a crack in the floor, and the cock had not seen it. That was a bad thing for him, for while his eyes were shut and he was crowing "cock-a-doodle-do!" the Clever Student changed himself from the melon-seed into a great fox. Up he jumped—snip! snap!—and off flew the cock's head, and there was an end of it and of the Master of Black Arts.
After that the Student turned himself into his own true shape again. Then he and the princess told the king all about the business, and when the king heard how fond the princess was of the lad, he said that there was only one thing to be done, and that was to call in the minister.
So the Student was married to his dear princess, and that is what comes of book-learning.
After the wedding was all over, and the fiddlers had gone home, the Clever Student set out for his father's house in a fine coach drawn by six beautiful horses. There was the old man, making fagots in the forest back of the house, just as he had always done. At first he would not believe that the great lord in the coach was his own son. "No, no," says he; "and is it becoming in a fine spark from the great town to come here and make sport of a poor old wood-chopper. I know very well that my son is nothing but a poor student." But at last he got the whole matter through his head, and then he was so glad that he kissed his son on both cheeks, and asked him whether he had not always said that it was better for his boy to study books than to make fagots. For this is true: everything happens for the best when Luck strokes one the right way.
So the fagot-maker went back with his son to the fine house that the lad lived in, now that he had married a princess.
There everything was made easy for him, and he always had a warm corner to sit in back of the stove.
And that is the end of this story.