Thursday, 5 November 2015

Goodman Bear

Once upon a time, there was farmer who went into the mountains for a load of hay to feed his cattle through the winter.

When he came to the haystacks, he backed the sleigh and horse up tight, went into the stack, and began to turn the hay down on to the sleigh. But there was a bear in the hay, lying there in hibernation, and when the man began raking and turning, the bear awoke and charged out, landing on the sleigh. The horse got wind of the bear, and bolted down the mountain, as if he had stolen both the bear and the sleigh; he wasted no time.

Now, the bear has a reputation for being grumpy, and he was less than pleased with his sleigh-ride on this occasion. Where he sat, he held on tight, as best he could, and glared around him, looking for an opportunity to throw himself off, but he found none.

When he had driven a good while, he met a merchant.

“Where in the name of God is the bailiff off to today?” said the merchant. “He surely has but little time and a long journey before him, since he is driving so quickly.”

The bear, however, answered not a word; he had enough to do, holding on tightly.

After a while, he met a peasant woman. She greeted him, bobbed her head, and begged a shilling in the name of the Lord. The bear said nothing, but holding on tightly, he drove on as fast as the sleigh would carry him.

When he had come a way farther down, he met Mikkel the fox.

“Hello there. Are you out for a drive?” called Mikkel. “Slow down a little, let me sit on the back and hitch a lift.”

The bear answered not a word, but holding on tightly, he drove as fast as the horse could run.

“Well! If you won't take me with you, then I conjure that though today you drive as a fur-dressed cad, tomorrow you'll hang with your back unclad”, screamed the fox after him. The bear heard nothing of what Mikkel said; he drove just as quickly as before.

When the horse came to the farm, he galloped into the stall at full tilt, so that he shed both harness and sleigh, and the bear struck his skull on the beam of the door and dropped down dead on the spot.

The farmer had remained in the haystack, loading hay, until he judged that he had a full load on the sleigh. But when he came to tie the load down, he discovered that he had neither horse nor sleigh, so he had to trudge down the road to recover his horse.

After a while, he met the merchant.

“Have you seen a horse and sleigh?” he said to the merchant.

“No”, said the merchant, “but I saw the bailiff down here. He drove so fast, he must have been on his way to flay someone.”

After a while, he met the peasant woman.

“Have you met a horse and sleigh?” he said to the woman.

“No”, said the woman, “but I met the parson down here. He must have been on parish business, he drove so fast. He was riding with a farmer.”

After a while, the farmer met the fox.

“Have you seen a horse and sleigh?” said the farmer.

“Yes”, answered Mikkel, “but Goodman Bear sat on it, and drove as if he had stolen both horse and tack.”

“The devil take him! He will drive the horse to death for me”, said the farmer.

“Pull off his skin, then, and roast him over the embers”, said Mikkel. “But should you recover your horse, would you take me over the mountain? I can be a good travelling companion”, said the fox, “and I would like the experience of being drawn by a four-legged beast of burden.”

“What will you give me for the ride?” said the farmer.

“You may have either wet or dry”, said the fox. “You'll have as much from me as from Goodman Bear, for he is unusually greedy when he steals a ride, and hangs on to the back of the horse.”

“Yes, you shall have a ride over the mountain”, said the farmer. “Just you meet me here tomorrow.” He understood that Mikkel was tricking him, and was practising his cunning arts.

So the farmer took a loaded blunderbuss with him on the sleigh, and when Mikkel came, thinking he would ride for nothing, he received a charge of shot in his carcass. The farmer drew his pelt off him, and he had both bearskin and fox pelt.

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