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The Little Peasant. Part 3

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At home the small peasant gradually launched out; he built a beautiful house, and the peasants said: ’The small peasant has certainly been to the place where golden snow falls, and people carry the gold home in shovels.’ 

Then the small peasant was brought before the mayor, and bidden to say from whence his wealth came. He answered: ’I sold my cow’s skin in the town, for three hundred talers.’ When the peasants heard that, they too wished to enjoy this great profit, and ran home, killed all their cows, and stripped off their skins in order to sell them in the town to the greatest advantage. The mayor, however, said: ’But my servant must go first.’ 

When she came to the merchant in the town, he did not give her more than two talers for a skin, and when the others came, he did not give them so much, and said: ’What can I do with all these skins?’

Then the peasants were vexed that the small peasant should have thus outwitted them, wanted to take vengeance on him, and accused him of this treachery before the major. The innocent little peasant was unanimously sentenced to death, and was to be rolled into the water, in a barrel pierced full of holes. He was led forth, and a priest was brought who was to say a mass for his soul. The others were all obliged to retire to a distance, and when the peasant looked at the priest, he recognized the man who had been with the miller’s wife. He said to him: ’I set you free from the closet, set me free from the barrel.’ 

At this same moment up came, with a flock of sheep, the very shepherd whom the peasant knew had long been wishing to be mayor, so he cried with all his might: ’No, I will not do it; if the whole world insists on it, I will not do it!’ The shepherd hearing that, came up to him, and asked: ’What are you about? What is it that you will not do?’ The peasant said: ’They want to make me mayor, if I will but put myself in the barrel, but I will not do it.’ The shepherd said: ’If nothing more than that is needful in order to be mayor, I would get into the barrel at once.’ The peasant said: ’If you will get in, you will be mayor.’ The shepherd was willing, and got in, and the peasant shut the top down on him; then he took the shepherd’s flock for himself, and drove it away. 

The parson went to the crowd, and declared that the mass had been said. Then they came and rolled the barrel towards the water. When the barrel began to roll, the shepherd cried: ’I am quite willing to be mayor.’ They believed no otherwise than that it was the peasant who was saying this, and answered: ’That is what we intend, but first you shall look about you a little down below there,’ and they rolled the barrel down into the water.

After that the peasants went home, and as they were entering the village, the small peasant also came quietly in, driving a flock of sheep and looking quite contented. 

Then the peasants were astonished, and said: ’Peasant, from whence do you come? Have you come out of the water?’ ’Yes, truly,’ replied the peasant, ’I sank deep, deep down, until at last I got to the bottom; I pushed the bottom out of the barrel, and crept out, and there were pretty meadows on which a number of lambs were feeding, and from thence I brought this flock away with me.’ Said the peasants: ’Are there any more there?’ ’Oh, yes,’ said he, ’more than I could want.’ 

Then the peasants made up their minds that they too would fetch some sheep for themselves, a flock apiece, but the mayor said: ’I come first.’ So they went to the water together, and just then there were some of the small fleecy clouds in the blue sky, which are called little lambs, and they were reflected in the water, whereupon the peasants cried: ’We already see the sheep down below!’ The mayor pressed forward and said: ’I will go down first, and look about me, and if things promise well I’ll call you.’ So he jumped in; splash! went the water; it sounded as if he were calling them, and the whole crowd plunged in after him as one man. Then the entire village was dead, and the small peasant, as sole heir, became a rich man.




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