Thursday, 20 October 2016

Well Done and Ill Paid

Once upon a time, there was a man who would go to the forest for some wood. There he met a bear.

“Bring your horse here, or I will slay all your sheep before the summer,” said the bear.

“Oh dear me,” said the man, “there is not a stick of wood at home; you must let me drive home with a load of wood, or we will simply freeze to death; I will return with my horse for you tomorrow.”

Yes, he was allowed this; they agreed upon it, but if he did not return, then he would lose all his sheep before the summer, said the bear. The man loaded the wood, and started for home, but he was not very happy about the agreement, you know.

Then he met a fox.

“What is it you are frowning about?” asked the fox.

“Oh, I met a bear up there,” said the man, “and I had to promise him my horse tomorrow at the same place, for should he not have it, he said, then he will rend all my sheep to death before the summer.”

“Bah! Nothing worse?” said the fox. “If you will give me your fattest ram, I will free you from the agreement.”

Yes, he promised, and he would honour it, too, said the man.

“When you come to the bear with your horse tomorrow,” said the fox, “then I will call from up in the scree, I will; and when the bear then asks who it is, then you shall say that it is Per the shooter, who is the best shooter in the world—and then you must help yourself.”

The next day, when the man met the bear, there was some calling from the up in the scree.

“Huh? Who is that?” said the bear.

“Oh, that is one Per the shooter, who is the best shooter in all the world,” said the man; “I recognise him by his voice,” he said.

“Have you seen any bears up here, Erik?” came the call from the forest.

“Say no,” said the bear.

“No, I haven’t seen any bears,” said Erik.

“What is that, standing beside your sled, then?” came the call from the forest.

“Say that it is an old stump of pitch pine,” whispered the bear.

“Oh, it is only an old stump of pitch pine,” said Eirk.

“We usually tip such stumps of pitch pine on to the sled, at my place,” it called from over in the forest; “if you cannot manage it, I shall come and help you.”

“Tell him you can do it yourself, and tip me on to the sled,” said the bear.

“No thank you; I am sure I can do it by myself,” said the man, and tipped the bear on to the sled.

“We usually bind fast such stumps of pitch pine, at my place,” it called from the forest. “Do you want some help?” it asked.

“Tell him you can do it yourself, and bind me fast,” said the bear.

“No thank you; I am sure I can do it myself,” said the man, and began to bind the bear wth all the rope he had, until it could not move even one paw.

“We usually put an axe into such stumps of pitch pine, once we have bound them fast,” it called from the forest; “for then we can steer them better on the steep banks,” it said.

“Pretend to put the axe in me,” whispered the bear.

So the man took his axe and clove the bear’s skull, so that it fell down dead on the spot; and he and the fox were friends, and in full agreement. However, when they approached the farm, the fox said: “I would like to come in to you, but I don’t like your dogs. I will stay here until you come back with the ram; just bring one that is nice and fat.”

The man promised to do so, and thanked him for his help. When he had stabled the horse, he went over to the sheepfold.

“Where are you going?” his wife asked him.

“Oh, I am going to the sheepfold, to get a fat ram for the kindly fox that has saved our horse,” said the man; “for I have promised him it.”

“That damn thieving fox doesn’t deserve any ram!” said the wife. “We have the horse, and the bear, too; and the fox has stolen more geese from us than the ram is worth; and if he hasn’t, then he might still,” she said. “No, put a couple of the meanest dogs in your sack, and loose them after him, you; and perhaps we will be rid of that thieving rogue,” said the woman.

The man thought this was good advice, and so he took two mean red dogs, put them in the sack, and took them with him.

“Do you have the ram?” said the fox.

“Yes; come and get it,” said the man. He loosened the knot, and loosed the dogs on him.

“Huff!” said the fox as he jumped. “The old proverb is true, as they say, that well done is ill paid. And now I see that the worst enemy is a friend,” he said, as he saw the red dogs coming after him.

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