LIKE many others in the world, there lived a mother with her three sons. They were not rich, but lived by their work. The eldest son said one day to his mother--
"It would be better for us if I should go out to service."
The mother did not like it, but at last she let him go. He goes off, far, far, far away, and comes to a house, and asks if they want a servant. They say "Yes," and they make their agreement.
The master-was to give a very high salary--100,000 francs--but the. servant was to do everything that the master ordered him, and, if he did not do it, the master was to tear the skin off his back at the end of the year, and to dismiss him without pay. 1
The servant said to him,
"All right; I am strong, and I will work."
On the morrow the master gives him a great deal of
work, but he does it easily. The last months of the year the master presses him much more, and one day he sends him into a field to sow fourteen bushels of wheat in the day. The lad goes sadly, taking with him a pair of oxen. He returns to the house very late in the evening. The master says to him,
"Have you done your work
He says, "No."
"Do you remember the agreement we made? I must tear the skin off your back: that is your salary."
He tears the skin off, as he had said, and sends him away home without anything. His mother was in great grief at seeing him come home so thin and weak, and without any money.
He tells what has happened, and the second brother wishes to start off at once, saying that he is strong, and that he will do more work. The mother did not like it, but she was obliged to let him go.
He goes to the same house as his brother, and makes the same terms with the master. When he had almost finished his year, his master sends him too to sow fourteen bushels of wheat. He starts very early in the morning, with two pair of oxen; but the night came before he had sown it all. The master was very glad at the sight of that. He strips his skin off his back also, and sends him away without any money. Think of the vexation of this mother in seeing both her sons return in this fashion.
The third wishes to start off at once. He assures his mother that he will bring back both the money and the skin of his back. He goes to this same gentleman. He tells this one, too, that he will give him a high salary, on condition that he will do all that he shall tell him to do, otherwise he shall have the skin torn off his back, and be sent away without anything, at the end of the year.
He had made him work hard and well for ten months, and then wished to try him. He sent him to the field, and told him to sow fourteen bushels of wheat before night. He answers, "Yes."
He takes two pairs of oxen, and goes off to the field. He ploughs a furrow all round the field, and throws his fourteen bushels of wheat into it. He then makes another furrow, to cover it up, and at night time he goes home to the house. The master is astonished. He asks him if he has sown it.
"Yes, it is all under ground; you may be sure of it."
The master was not pleased; he had his fears.
The next day he sends him with sixteen head of cattle to such a field, and says to him,
"You must take all these cattle into the field without unlocking the gate or making a gap."
Our lad takes a hatchet, a hoe, and a fork. Off he goes, and when he gets to the field he kills them all, one by one. He cuts them up with the hatchet, and throws them with the fork into the field.
He comes home at nightfall, and says to his master that all the cattle are in the field as he had told him. The master was not pleased, but he said nothing.
The next day he told him to go to such a forest and to bring a load of wood from there, but all the sticks quite, quite straight. Our lad goes off and cuts down in the chestnut copse all the young chestnut trees which his master had planted, and which were very fine ones; and he comes home. When the master saw that, he was not pleased, and said to him,
"To-morrow you shall go again with the oxen; and you must bring a load of wood quite crooked, all quite crooked if you bring only one straight, so much the worse for you."
The lad goes off, and pulls up a fine vineyard. After he had loaded his cart, he comes home. When the master saw that, he could not say anything; but he did not know what to think of it.
He sends him into a forest. There was a Tartaro, there; and all the persons, and all the animals who went there, he ate them all. The master gives him ten pigs, and also food for ten days, telling him that the hogs would fatten themselves
well there, because there were plenty of acorns, and that he must return at the end of ten days.
Our lad begins, and he goes on, and on, and on. He meets an old woman, who says to him:
"Where are you going to, lad?"
"To such a forest, to fatten these pigs."
The woman says to him:
"If you are not a fool, you will not go there. That horrible Tartaro will eat you."
This woman was carrying a basket of walnuts on her head, and he said to her:
"If you will give me two of these walnuts I will beat the Tartaro."
She willingly gives them to him, and he goes on, and on, and on. He meets another old woman, who was winding thread. She says to him:
"Where are you going, lad?
"To such a forest."
"Don't go there. There is a horrible Tartaro there, who will be sure to eat you, and your pigs as well."
"I must go there all the same, and I will conquer him, if you will give me two of your balls of thread."
She gives him them, willingly; and he goes on farther, and finds a blacksmith, and he, too, asks him where he is going? And he answers, "To such a forest, to fatten my pigs."
"You may just as well go back again. There is a terrible Tartaro there, who will be sure to eat you."
"If you will give me a spit, I will beat him."
"I will give it you, willingly," and he gives it him with goodwill.
Our lad goes on, and comes to this forest. He cuts off the tails of all his pigs, and hides them in a safe place. The Tartaro appears, and says to him:
"How did you come here? I am going to eat you."
The lad says to him:
"Eat a pig if you like, but don't touch me."
He takes his two nuts, and rubs them one against the other. "I have two balls here, and if one of them touches you, you are dead."
The Tartaro is frightened, and goes away in silence. After having eaten a pig, he comes back again, and says to him:
"We must make a wager--which of the two will make the greatest heap of wood?"
The Tartaro begins to cut and to cut. Our lad leaves him alone, and when he has made a. terrible big heap, he begins to go round all the trees with his balls of thread, and says to him.
"You, that; but I, all this;" and he goes on tying and tying. The Tartaro gives in, saying "that he is more clever than he." As he had stopped his ten days, he makes in the night a great fire, and makes his spit red-hot in it and while the Tartaro was sleeping, he plunges this spit into his only eye. After having taken his pigs' tails, he goes away from the forest without any pigs, because the Tartaro had eaten one every day. Near his master's house there was "a well of the fairy." 1 Our lad sticks in there the tails of all his hogs, excepting one, as well as he could. He then goes running to his master, telling him that all the pigs were coming home very gaily, and that they had got so hot in coming so fast that they had all gone under the mud. "I wished to drag one out by pulling, but only the tail came away; here it is."
He goes off then with the master to this marsh; but the master did not dare go in there to pull them out. He goes off sadly with his servant home, not knowing what to think about it. There he counts him out his 100,000 francs, and he went home proudly to his mother and his brothers. There they lived happily, and their master was left with 100,000 francs less. That served him right for having so much.
11:1 This agreement is found also in the Norse and in Brittany. See Contes Populaires de la Grande Bretagne," by Loys Brueyre, pp. 25, 26. This is an excellent work. The incident of Shylock, in the "Merchant of Venice," will occur to every one.
15:1 Literally, "Marsh of the Basa-Andre." The "Puits des Fées" are common in France, especially in the Landes and in the Gironde.