Short Story - The Poor Farmer
There was a small village wherein several rich farmers were settled and only one poor man who was therefore called THE POOR FARMER. He had not even a goat, nor the money to buy any though he and his wife would have been extremely happy to have one. One day he said to her, “A good thought has just struck me. The carver can make us a lamb out of wood and paint it brown so that it will look like any other. In time perhaps it will grow big and become a goat”. This proposal pleased his wife. And the carver was instructed accordingly and he cut out the lamb, painted it as it should be and so made it that its head was bent down is if eating.
The next morning the goats were driven out to pasture and the farmer called the shepherd and said, “See… I have here a little lamb. But it is so small that it must as yet be carried.” The shepherd said, “Very well” and taking it under his arm, carried it down to the meadow and set it among the grass. All day the lamb stood there as if eating. The shepherd said to himself, “See how it is eating! It will soon grow big and go alone.” In the evening when he wanted to drive his flocks home, he said to the lamb, “If you can stand there to eat all the time, you must also be able to walk upon your four legs and I shall not carry you home in my arms.”
The poor farmer stood before his house door waiting for his lamb. The shepherd drove his herd through the village. The farmer asked him about the lamb. The shepherd replied, “It is still standing there eating. It is not listening to me”. The farmer exclaimed, “Eh! What? I must have my lamb!” and so both of them went together down to the meadow. But someone had stolen the lamb and it was gone.
The shepherd said “Perhaps it has run away itself”, but the farmer replied, “No, no, that won’t do for me.” The shepherd was dragged before the Mayor. He was sentenced for his negligence to give the poor farmer a goat in the place of the lost lamb.
Now the farmer and his wife possessed the long-desired goat and were very glad. But having no fodder they could give her nothing to eat. So, very soon they were obliged to kill her. The flesh they salted down and the skin the poor farmer took to the next town to sell and to buy a lamb with what he got for it.
On the way he passed a mill where a raven was sitting with a broken wing and out of compassion he took the bird up and wrapped it in the skin he was carrying. But the weather was very bad with a great storm and rain so he was unable to go further and turning into the mill, begged for shelter. The miller’s wife was at home alone and said to the farmer, “Lie down on that straw” and gave him a piece of bread and cheese. The farmer ate it and lay down with the skin near him and the miller’s wife thought he was asleep. Later, a man came and she received him very cordially. She gave him a grand feast and the farmer was vexed on having been treated only with bread and cheese.
The woman went inside the kitchen and brought well-fried chicken, rice and salad. As they were sitting down to eat, there was knock outside and the woman exclaimed, “Oh! Gracious! That is my husband!” In a great hurry she stuck the chicken in the oven, the salad under the pillow, the rice upon the bed, while her guest stepped into the cupboard where she kept the linen. After doing all this she let in her husband and said, “God be praised! You have returned again! What weather it is, as if the world is coming to an end!”
The miller noticed the man lying on the straw and asked what the fellow did there. His wife said, ‘Ah, the poor fellow came in the wind and rain and begged for shelter so I gave him some bread and cheese and showed him the straw.”
The husband said he had no objection and asked her to bring some food for him. The wild said, “I have nothing but bread and cheese” and her husband told her with that he should be contented and asked the farmer to come and share his meal. The farmer did not let himself be twice asked but got up and ate away. Presently the miller noticed the skin lying upon the ground in which was the raven and asked, “What have you there?”
The farmer replied, “I have a truth-teller therein”. “
Can it tell me the truth too?” asked the miller.
“Why not?” said the other “but he will only say four things and the fifth he keeps to himself.”
The miller was curious and wished to hear it speak and the farmer squeezed the raven’s head so that it squeaked out.
The miller then asked, “What did he say?”
The farmer replied, “The first thing is under the pillow lies the salad”.
“That is a rare thing!” said the miller and went and found the salad. The farmer made the raven croak again and said, “Secondly, he declares there is roast chicken in the oven.” “That is a good tell-tale!” cried the miller again and opening the oven, he took out the roast chicken. Then the farmer made the raven croak again and said, “For the third thing, he declares there is rice on the bed.” “That is wonderful!” exclaimed the miller and he found the rice. Then the farmer made his bird croak once more and said, “For the fourth thing, he declares there are boiled eggs under the bed”. “Oh! I like it.” said the miller while he went and found as it said.
The two men now sat down together at the table, but the miller’s wife felt terribly angry and went to bed taking all the keys with her. The miller was very anxious to know the filth thing. But the man said, “First let us eat quietly these four things, for the other is somewhat dreadful!”
After they had finished their meal, the miller bargained as to how much he should give for the fifth thing and at last he agreed for three thousand rupees. Then the farmer once more made the raven croak and when the miller asked what it said, he told him, “He declares that in the cupboard where the linen is there is an evil spirit!”
The miller said, “The evil spirit must walk out!” and tried to open the door. But it was locked and the woman had to give up the key to the farmer who unlocked it. The unbidden guest at once bolted out and ran out of the house while the miller said, “Ah, I saw the black fellow that was all right!” Soon they went to sleep. But at daybreak the farmer took three thousand rupees and made himself scarce.
The farmer was now quite rich at home and built himself a fine hut. Hence his fellows said, “The poor farmer has certainly found the golden fortune of which he has brought away a basketful” and they summoned him before the Mayor that he might be made to say how his riches came.
The man replied, “I have sold my goat’s skin in the city for three thousand rupees”.
And as soon as the others heard this they also desired to make a similar profit. The farmers ran home, killed all their goats and taking their skins off, took them to the city to sell them for a good price.
The Mayor, however, said. “My maid must go first” and when she arrived at the city she went to the merchant. But he gave her only three hundred rupees for the skin. And when the rest came he would not give them so much, saying, “What should I do with all these skins?”
The farmers were much vexed at being outwitted by their poor neighbour and bent on revenge, they complained to the Mayor of his deceit. The innocent, poor farmer was condemned to death unanimously and was to be rolled in a cask full of holes into the sea. He was led away. Then they sent for a priest who should say for him the mass for the dead. Everyone else was obliged to move to a distance and when the farmer looked at the priest he recognized the guest whom he had met at the mill.
So he said to him, “I have delivered you out of the cupboard. Now deliver me from this cask”. Just at that moment the shepherd passed by with a flock of sheep and the farmer, knowing that for a long time the man had desired to be Mayor, cried out with all his might. “No. no! I will not do it…even if the entire world asked me I would not do it! No, I will not!”
When the shepherd heard this he came up and said, “What are you doing here? What will you not do?”
The farmer replied, “They will make me Mayor if I remain in this cask…but no…I will not be here!” “Oh”, said the shepherd, “if nothing else is required to become the Mayor. I am willing to put myself in the cask!
“Yes, you will be the Mayor if you do that”, said the farmer.
Then he got out of the cask and the shepherd got in and the farmer nailed the lid down again. Now he took the shepherd’s flock and drove it away while the parson went to the judge and told him he had said the prayers for the dead. Then they went and rolled the cask down to the water and while it rolled, the shepherd called out, “Yes, I should like to be the Mayor!”
They thought it was the poor farmer who spoke and said. “Yes, we understand it. Only you must first go below there.”
Then they sent the cask right into the sea.
When that was done the farmers returned home and as they came into the village so came also the poor farmer, driving a flock of sheep quietly and cheerfully. The sight astounded the others and they asked, “When did you come? How did you come out of the water?” The farmer said. “I sank deeper and deeper till I got to the bottom where I pushed up the head of the cask and, got out. There were beautiful meadows upon which many lambs were grazing and I brought this flock of them up with me.”
“Are there any more?” inquired the farmers.
“Oh yes!” replied he, “more than you know what to do with!”
Then the farmers agreed that they would go and each fetch a flock for himself. But the Mayor said, “I must go first.”
So they went together down to the water and there happened to be a fine blue sky with plenty of fleecy clouds over it which were mirrored in the water and looked like little lambs. The farmer told them, “Look there! We can see the sheep already on the ground below the water!” and the Mayor pressing quite forward, said, “I will go first and look about me and see if it is a good place and then call you.”
So saying, he jumped in plump and as he splashed the water about, the others thought he was calling “Come along!” and so one after another the farmers plunged in a great hurry.
Thus was the whole village cleared out and the “Poor Farmer”, as their only heir, became a very rich man.
MORAL : Quick-wittedness helps one overcome one’s dangers.
The Poor Farmer – The Poor Farmer – The Poor Farmer – The Poor Farmer