Sunday, 25 March 2018

The Boy Who Would Be a Merchant

There was once upon a time a widow who had a son, and he did not want to do anything but become a merchant. But they were so poor that they did not have anything that he could take to begin trading with. The only thing his mother owned, that was a sow, and this he asked and begged for for so long and so well that she finally had to let him have it. When he had got it, he wanted to go off with it and sell it, so that he would have something to begin trading with. He offered it up to both like and unlike, but there was no one who would buy a sow at that time. Finally, he came to a rich big-shot; but much will have more, and this one was of the sort who could never have enough.

“Do you want to buy a sow today?” said the boy; “both a big sow, a good sow, and a rightly fat sow,” he said. What would he have for it? said the big-shot. She was worth at least half a score of dollars, if it had been between brothers, said the boy; but these were such times of want, and money was scarce, so he would sell her for four dollars; that was as good as giving it away. No, the bog-shot would not have it; he would not give so much as a dollar; he had more sows than he cared for, there was no lack on that account; but since he was so eager to sell he would do him the favour of buying it; but the most he would give for the whole sow was four shillings; if he wanted that, then he could put her in the pigsty with the others, he said.

The boy thought it enraging that he should get no more for his sow, but he thought that something was better than nothing, and so he took the four shillings and put the sow in, and so he had money in his hands. But when he got on the road again, he began to consider that he had been swindled out of the sow, and that he would not come far with four shillings; the longer he went and reflected on this, the angrier he grew, and so he thought to himself: “If I could play him a proper prank in return, then neither the sow nor the shillings would matter.”

So off he went and took himself a couple of strong straps, and a riding crop, put on a long tunic and put on a buck’s beard, and then went back to the farmer and said that he came from foreign parts, where he had learned to be a master carpenter—he knew the man was to build, you understand.

Yes, he would like to have him as his building foreman, he said, for there in the village they had nothing but simple, home-taught carpenters. When they went away to look at the timber, it was the stoutest ore-pine anyone could want in a house wall, and the boy said too that it was stout timber, no one could claim otherwise.; but in foreign parts they had a new custom, which was much better than the old; they did not chop log timbers to lay in the wall, but they cut them up into short logs, and baked them in the sun and fastened them back together, and it was both stronger and more beautiful than an old-fashioned log house. “It is in use everywhere in foreign parts,” said the boy.

“That will do nicely,” said the big-shot, and so he gathered together all the timber men and wood cutters there were in the village, and got them to chop up the timber into short logs.

“But then there should be some big trees, truly of the largest mast pines, for sill beams; perhaps there are no such big trees in your forest,” said the boy.

“Well, if they are not in my forest, then a curse on such trees!” said the man, and so they struck out into the forest, the two of them.

A little way into the mark, they came to a big tree. “I wonder if this is big enough,” said the man.

“No, it is not big enough; if you do not have bigger trees, then we will come no further with the building, not according to the new method, anyway,” said the boy.

“Well, I have them bigger, you will see,” said the man, “but then we have to go farther in.” So they went far across the hills, and then they came to a huge tree, one of the largest mast trees in the forest.

“Do you think this is big enough?” said the man.

“I think it must be,” said the boy; “we will fathom it, so that we can see. You go around the other side of the pine, and I will stay here; if we cannot reach our hands together, then it is big enough; but stretch well, I say,” said the boy, taking out a strap. The man did what the boy said.

“Yes, we can probably reach each other,” said the boy. “Wait a little, and I shall stretch you better,” he said, slipping a running snare over his wrists, then pulling and binding him fast to the pine. Then he took his riding crop and began to beat the man for as long as he managed. “Here is the boy you bought the sow from; oh, here is the boy you bought the sow from!” he screamed, not stopping before he thought he had had enough himself, and had received what was fair for his sow; then he loosed him, and left him lying there.

When the big-shot did not return home, they went on a man hunt for him from the village, and searched all over the mark, and finally found him beneath the mast pine, and he was more dead than alive. When they had got him safely to the farm, the boy came, disguised as a doctor, and said that he came from foreign parts, and that he knew the cure for all kinds of ill. When the man heard this, he wanted him as his doctor, and the boy said that it would not take too long, but he had to have him out in a cabin by himself, and there he had to be alone with him. “If you hear him scream,” said the boy, “then you should pay no attention; for the more he screams, the quicker he shall recover.”

“First I shall bleed you,” he said; and so he laid the man face down on the long bench and tied him well with his strap; then he took out his riding crop and began to beat him again with all his might. The man whooped and screamed, for his back was sore, and it stung in his raw flesh, and the boy beat him without restraint. “Here is the boy you bought the sow from; oh, here is the boy you bought the sow from!” he said. The man behaved as if there were a knife sticking in him; but there was no one who cared about it, for the more he screamed, the quicker he should recover, they thought. When the boy had done with his doctoring, he went off as quickly as he could. But they went after him and got hold of him and caught him, and so he was sentenced to hang.

And the big shot was so angry that he did not want him to hang before he had recovered enough that he could do it himself.

While the boy sat there waiting to be hanged, one of the man’s tenants was out one night, stealing from him, and the boy saw this. You are a good thief, he thought, and it would be fun if I could play you a prank before they hang me, he said to himself.

Time went by, until the man was well enough that he thought he could manage to hang him, he had them set up a gallows down by the mill road, so he could see the body hanging every time he went to the mill.

When they had come a way on the road, the boy said:

“You won’t refuse me leave to speak in private with your tenant who is milling in the mill, will you? I once played a prank on him, and I want to confess and ask his forgiveness before I die.”

Yes, he would be allowed.

“God help you!” he said to the tenant. “Here comes the farmer to hang you up for what you stole from his cabbage patch.”

When the tenant heard this, he grew so ill that he did not know what to do to save himself, and he asked the boy what he should do.

“Come now, and swap clothes with me, and hide behind the door, so he will think it none other than me,” said the boy, “and if he takes anyone, then it will not be you, but me.”

It took some time for them to swap clothes and dress again, so the man began to grow afraid that the boy had perhaps escaped. He set off for the mill house door.

“Where is he?” he said to the boy, who stood there as white as a miller.

“He was here just now; I think he hid himself behind the door,” said the boy.

“Yes, I will teach you to hide yourself away, you scoundrel!” he said, taking the tenant in his anger. He strode off to the gallows with him, and hanged him up immediately, and he knew nothing other than that it was the boy he had hanged.

When this was well done, he wanted to go into the mill house and speak with his tenant, who was milling there.

The boy had lifted up the upper stone, and was feeling below it with his hands.

“Come here and feel how strange this millstone is,” said the boy.

The man went over and felt it with one hand.

“No, you won’t feel it unless you touch it underneath, and feel it with both hands,” said the boy.

Yes, he did so, but the boy immediately snatched the support away, and slipped the upper stone on him, so he was caught fast between the stones; and then he took out his riding crop and beat him as much as he could manage again.

“Oh, here is the boy you bought the sow from!” he screamed.

When he had beaten him as much as he wanted and could, he went home to his mother, and when some time had passed, such that he thought the man had recovered again, then he said to her:

“Well, now he will come soon, this man I sold the sow to. Now I have no way of saving myself from him any longer; I will dig myself a hole, south on our land, and there will I lie during the day, and you must say to him what I tell you to,” said the boy, and he told her what to say and do.

He dug a hole, then, as he had said, and took with him a big, long butcher’s knife, and lay down in it, and his mother laid branches and twigs and moss over him, so that he was well hidden. There he lay during the day. After a while the man came travelling, asking after the boy.

“Well, he became quite the fellow, even though he had nothing from me but a sow,” said the woman; “he was a doctor and a master carpenter, and then he was hanged and rose again from the dead, and even so, I only hear all sorts of things about him. The other day, he came flying home and made me as happy as he ever made me when he lay down to die,” said the woman. “I did not care enough for him that I should afford him a parson and Christian soil; but I dug down here, south on our land, and raked some twigs and branches over him,” she said.

“You see, he tricked me, and escaped in the end!” said the man. “But since I did not get to avenge myself on him while he lived, then I shall do him a dishonour on his grave.”

He strode south on the land, and was about to squat down, but the boy immediately stuck the knife in him, all the way to the handle, and screamed: “Here is the boy you bought the sow from! Oh here is the boy you bought the sow from!”

The man ran off with the knife in his body, and was so scared and afraid that he has neither been heard of nor seen since.


Norwegian source: Gutten som ville bli handelskar.

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