Soon, however, having been on his legs since daybreak, he began to feel very tired, and was plagued too with hunger, since he had eaten all his provision at once in his joy about the cow bargain. At last he felt quite unable to go farther, and was forced, too, to halt every minute for the stones encumbered him very much. Just then the thought overcame him, what a good thing it were if he had no need to carry them any longer, and at the same moment he came up to a stream. Here he resolved to rest and refresh himself with drink, and so that the stones might not hurt him in kneeling he laid them carefully down by his side on the bank. This done, he stooped down to scoop up some water in his hand, and then it happened that he pushed one stone a little too far, so that both presently went plump into the water. Hans, as soon as he saw them sinking to the bottom, jumped up for joy, and then kneeled down and returned thanks, with tears in his eyes, that so mercifully, and without any act on his part, and in so nice a way, he had been delivered from the heavy stones, which alone hindered him from getting on.
“So lucky as I am,” exclaimed Hans, “is no other man under the sun!”
Then with a light heart, and free from every burden, he leaped gaily along till he reached his mother’s house.
WHY THE SEA IS SALT
Once on a time, but it was a long, long time ago, there were two brothers, one rich and one poor. Now, one Christmas eve, the poor one hadn’t so much as a crumb in the house, either of meat or bread, so he went to his brother to ask him for something to keep Christmas with, in God’s name. It was not the first time his brother had been forced to help him, and you may fancy he wasn’t very glad to see his face, but he said:
“If you will do what I ask you to do, I’ll give you a whole flitch of bacon.”
So the poor brother said he would do anything and was full of thanks.
“Well, here is the flitch,” said the rich brother, “and now go straight to Hell.”
“What I have given my word to do, I must stick to,” said the other; so he took the flitch and set off. He walked the whole day, and at dusk he came to a place where he saw a very bright light.
“Maybe this is the place,” said the man to himself. So he turned aside, and the first thing he saw was an old, old man, with a long white beard, who stood in an outhouse, hewing wood for the Christmas fire.
“Good even,” said the man with the flitch.
“The same to you; whither are you going so late?” said the man.
“Oh! I’m going to Hell, if I only knew the right way,” answered the poor man.
“Well, you’re not far wrong, for this is Hell,” said the old man; “when you get inside they will be all for buying your flitch, for meat is scarce in Hell; but, mind you don’t sell it unless you get the hand-quern which stands behind the door for it. When you come out, I’ll teach you how to handle the quern, for it’s good to grind almost anything.”