Thursday, 8 September 2016

The Woman Against the Current

Once upon a time a man had a wife, and she was so contrary and difficult that it was not good to be together with her; the man certainly had no benefit from her; whatever he wanted, she would always want the opposite. There was one Sunday towards the end of summer that the man and his wife went out to see how their fields fared. When they came to a field on the other side of the river, the man said, “Now the weather is crisp; tomorrow we may begin to mow.”

“Yes, tomorrow we may begin to shear,” said the woman.

“What do you say? Shall we shear? Shall we not be allowed to mow, as well?” said the man.

No, shearing was what they would do, said the woman.

“A little knowledge is a dangerous thing,” said the man; “but you must have lost what little of your mind you had left. Have you ever seen anyone shear a field?” he said.

“I know a little, and little is all I will know,” said the woman, “but what I do know is that a field must be sheared, and not mown,” she said. There was no other answer–they would shear.

So they went, squabbling and quarreling, until they came to a bridge across the river, close by a deep hollow.

“There’s an old proverb,” said the man, “that good tools make the work good; but I think it will be a strange enough spectacle to watch them shear the field with sheep shears,” he said. “Shall we by no means be allowed to mow, then?”

“No, no–shear, shear, shear!” the woman shouted, jumping up and snipping with her fingers after the man’s nose. But in her eagerness, she stumbled against the end of a log and fell heavily into the river.

“Old habits die hard,” thought the man, “but it would be strange that I was never once right, too.”

He climbed into the hollow, and caught hold of her hair bun, so that her head was just above the water. “Shall we mow the field?” he said.

“Shear, shear, shear!” screamed the woman.

“Well, I’ll teach you to shear,” thought the man, and ducked her head under. But it did no good; they would shear, she said, when he pulled her up again. “I cannot think but that the woman is insane,” said the man to himself. “Many are insane and don’t know it; many have their wits about them, yet cannot muster them; but I shall try once more, now.” But no sooner had he pushed her under again, than she reached up above the water and clipped with her fingers, like scissors. Then the man grew wroth, and ducked her well and good, for a long while. But just like that, as his hand went beneath the surface, the woman grew so heavy that he let go immediately.

“You would pull me into the hollow with you, would you? Then you may lie there, you troll,” said the man. And the woman remained there.

But as time passed, he thought it a shame that she should lie there, and not be interred in Christian ground; and so he went along the river and looked and searched for her. But for all his looking and searching, he did not find her. He brought some farm folk, and other folk from the neighbourhood, and they began to delve and search down the whole river together, but for all their searching, they found no woman.

“No,” said the man, “I don’t suppose it will help, this. This woman was one of her kind,” he said. “While she lived, she was so contrary that I don’t suppose things will be any different now; we will begin to search upstream, and try above the falls; perhaps she has floated upstream.”

So they went upstream, and looked and searched above the falls. There lay the woman, sure enough. She certainly was a woman who went against the current.

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