The Miser in the Bush


A farmer had a faithful and diligent servant, who had worked hard for
him three years, without having been paid any wages. At last it came
into the man's head that he would not go on thus without pay any
longer; so he went to his master, and said, 'I have worked hard for
you a long time, I will trust to you to give me what I deserve to have
for my trouble.' The farmer was a sad miser, and knew that his man was
very simple-hearted; so he took out threepence, and gave him for every
year's service a penny. The poor fellow thought it was a great deal of
money to have, and said to himself, 'Why should I work hard, and live
here on bad fare any longer? I can now travel into the wide world, and
make myself merry.' With that he put his money into his purse, and set
out, roaming over hill and valley.

As he jogged along over the fields, singing and dancing, a little
dwarf met him, and asked him what made him so merry. 'Why, what should
make me down-hearted?' said he; 'I am sound in health and rich in
purse, what should I care for? I have saved up my three years'
earnings and have it all safe in my pocket.' 'How much may it come
to?' said the little man. 'Full threepence,' replied the countryman.
'I wish you would give them to me,' said the other; 'I am very poor.'
Then the man pitied him, and gave him all he had; and the little dwarf
said in return, 'As you have such a kind honest heart, I will grant
you three wishes--one for every penny; so choose whatever you like.'
Then the countryman rejoiced at his good luck, and said, 'I like many
things better than money: first, I will have a bow that will bring
down everything I shoot at; secondly, a fiddle that will set everyone
dancing that hears me play upon it; and thirdly, I should like that
everyone should grant what I ask.' The dwarf said he should have his
three wishes; so he gave him the bow and fiddle, and went his way.

Our honest friend journeyed on his way too; and if he was merry
before, he was now ten times more so. He had not gone far before he
met an old miser: close by them stood a tree, and on the topmost twig
sat a thrush singing away most joyfully. 'Oh, what a pretty bird!'
said the miser; 'I would give a great deal of money to have such a
one.' 'If that's all,' said the countryman, 'I will soon bring it
down.' Then he took up his bow, and down fell the thrush into the
bushes at the foot of the tree. The miser crept into the bush to find
it; but directly he had got into the middle, his companion took up his
fiddle and played away, and the miser began to dance and spring about,
capering higher and higher in the air. The thorns soon began to tear
his clothes till they all hung in rags about him, and he himself was
all scratched and wounded, so that the blood ran down. 'Oh, for
heaven's sake!' cried the miser, 'Master! master! pray let the fiddle
alone. What have I done to deserve this?' 'Thou hast shaved many a
poor soul close enough,' said the other; 'thou art only meeting thy
reward': so he played up another tune. Then the miser began to beg and
promise, and offered money for his liberty; but he did not come up to
the musician's price for some time, and he danced him along brisker
and brisker, and the miser bid higher and higher, till at last he
offered a round hundred of florins that he had in his purse, and had
just gained by cheating some poor fellow. When the countryman saw so
much money, he said, 'I will agree to your proposal.' So he took the
purse, put up his fiddle, and travelled on very pleased with his

Meanwhile the miser crept out of the bush half-naked and in a piteous
plight, and began to ponder how he should take his revenge, and serve
his late companion some trick. At last he went to the judge, and
complained that a rascal had robbed him of his money, and beaten him
into the bargain; and that the fellow who did it carried a bow at his
back and a fiddle hung round his neck. Then the judge sent out his
officers to bring up the accused wherever they should find him; and he
was soon caught and brought up to be tried.

The miser began to tell his tale, and said he had been robbed of his
money. 'No, you gave it me for playing a tune to you.' said the
countryman; but the judge told him that was not likely, and cut the
matter short by ordering him off to the gallows.

So away he was taken; but as he stood on the steps he said, 'My Lord
Judge, grant me one last request.' 'Anything but thy life,' replied
the other. 'No,' said he, 'I do not ask my life; only to let me play
upon my fiddle for the last time.' The miser cried out, 'Oh, no! no!
for heaven's sake don't listen to him! don't listen to him!' But the
judge said, 'It is only this once, he will soon have done.' The fact
was, he could not refuse the request, on account of the dwarf's third

Then the miser said, 'Bind me fast, bind me fast, for pity's sake.'
But the countryman seized his fiddle, and struck up a tune, and at the
first note judge, clerks, and jailer were in motion; all began
capering, and no one could hold the miser. At the second note the
hangman let his prisoner go, and danced also, and by the time he had
played the first bar of the tune, all were dancing together--judge,
court, and miser, and all the people who had followed to look on. At
first the thing was merry and pleasant enough; but when it had gone on
a while, and there seemed to be no end of playing or dancing, they
began to cry out, and beg him to leave off; but he stopped not a whit
the more for their entreaties, till the judge not only gave him his
life, but promised to return him the hundred florins.

Then he called to the miser, and said, 'Tell us now, you vagabond,
where you got that gold, or I shall play on for your amusement only,'
'I stole it,' said the miser in the presence of all the people; 'I
acknowledge that I stole it, and that you earned it fairly.' Then the
countryman stopped his fiddle, and left the miser to take his place at
the gallows.

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