Wednesday, 7 March 2018

The World’s Pay is No Different

There was once upon a time a man who went into the forest to hew some poles for his haystacks. But he could not find forest that was as tall and as straight and as dense as it should be, before he came tight below a scree. There he heard complaining and screams, as if there were one in jeopardy of their life. So he went over to see what it was about, if there was anyone in need of help, and then he heard that it came from beneath a flat stone slab that lay in the scree. It was so heavy that it needed many men to lift it; but the man went down into the forest again, and felled a tree that he made into a beam, and with that he propped up the stone slab.

From under the stone slab came forth a dragon, which would eat up the man. “Indeed,” said the man, “I saved your life, and so you will eat me up for my trouble; that is shamefully ungrateful,” he said.

“It may be that,” said the dragon, “but you should know that I am hungry, I who have lain here for a hundred years without tasting meat; and the world’s pay is no different, either.”

The man spoke well for himself, and begged beautifully for his life, and so they agreed that the first who came would be their arbitrator, and if he judged differently, then the man would not lose his life, but if he said the same, then the dragon would eat the man.

The first one who came was an old dog that walked down beneath the scree. He they spoke to, and he should be judge.

“God knows I have served my master faithfully from when I was a small puppy,” said the dog. “I have lain awake many a night and many a season, while he has lain on his green ear, and I have saved his farm and goods from fire and the hands of thieves on more than one occasion, but now I can neither see nor hear any longer, and now will he shoot me, so I must flee, and wonder between the farms, and beg my way along until I die of starvation. No, the world’s pay is no different,” said the dog.

“Then I will eat you!” said the dragon, and would again devour the man.

But the man spoke so beautifully for himself, and begged so feebly for his life, and finally they agreed that the next one who came should be appointed arbitrator; and should he say the same as the dragon and the dog, then the dragon should eat him up and make a meal of man-flesh, but if he did not, then the man should escape with his life.

Then there came an old horse wandering down the road that followed along the rise. He they spoke with, and asked him to judge between them. Yes, this he would do, then.

“Now, I have served my master for as long as I have been able to draw and carry,” said the horse. “I have toiled and striven for him, so that my sweat has poured off every hair, and I have steadily striven until I have ached and grown stiff and exhausted from the work and old age; now I am no good any more, now I can do nothing worth my feed, and so now I shall have a bullet, he says. No, the world’s pay is no different!” said the horse.

“Yes, and so I will eat you!” said the dragon, opening its gaping mouth wide to devour the man.

He begged so beautifully for his life again.

But the dragon wanted a bite of man-flesh, he said; he was so hungry that he could not control himself any longer.

“Look, there comes one who looks as if he were appointed judge,” said the man—Mikkel the fox came skulking down towards them, between the rocks in the scree. “All good things are three,” he said. “Let me ask him too, and if he judges as the others, then you shall eat me on the spot,” he said to the dragon.

“Very well, then,” said the dragon; he had also heard that all good things are three, and thus it would be so.

The man spoke to the fox, as he had to the other two. “Oh yes,” said the fox; but then he took the man aside a little.

“What will you give me as a reward, if I save you from the dragon?” whispered the fox in his ear.

“You shall come to me, and look after all of my hens and geese every Thursday evening,” said the man.

“Well, this looks like a matter of tenancy law, my dear dragon,” said the fox. “I cannot get it into my head that you, who are so great and powerful an animal, could have space to lie under that stone slab.”

“Well, I lay up here, sunning myself, and then there was a rock slide that tipped the stone slab over me.”

“That is very plausible,” said Mikkel, “but I do not understand it, and cannot believe it until I see it,” he said.

Then they would have to try it, said the man, and the dragon slipped back down into the hole again. Straightway, he knocked the beam away, and so the stone slab crashed over the dragon again.

“Lie now till judgement day,” said the fox; “you will not devour the man, for he saved you.” The dragon screamed and complained and begged, but the pair walked away.

The first Thursday, the fox would look after the hens in the hen house, and he hid himself behind a pile of fence posts that lay there. When the girl went to feed the hens in the evening, Mikkel slipped in. She did not notice and she did not see, and she was hardly out again before he had bitten to death eight days’ worth, and eaten until he could not manage to move. When she returned in the morning, the fox lay snoring and sleeping in the morning sun, with all four legs sticking out, and he was as full and as stuffed as a sausage.

The girl went up for the wife, and she and all the girls came with poles and sticks, and they began to strike Mikkel until they had nearly beaten him to death; but then, at the end, when they thought he would end his life there, Mikkel found a hole in the floor; that he slipped out through, and he limped and dragged himself to the forest. “Ow! Ow! The world’s pay is no different, that is certain enough!” said Mikkel.

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