Subject:FICTION Scarica il testo


The Crows and the Soldier

A WORTHY soldier had saved a good deal of money out of his pay; for he worked hard, and did not spend all he earned in eating and drinking, as many others do. Now he had two comrades who were great rogues, and wanted to rob him of his money, but behaved outwardly towards him in a friendly ‘way. ‘Comrade,’ said they to him one day, ‘why should we stay here shut up in this town like prisoners, when you at any rate have, earned enough to live upon for the rest of your days in peace and plenty at home by your own fireside?’ They talked so often to him in this manner, that he at last said he would go and try his luck with them; but they all the time thought of nothing but how they should manage to steal his money from him. When they had gone a little way, the two rogues said, ‘We must go by the right hand road, for that will take us quickest into another country where we shall be safe.’ Now they knew all the while that what they were saying was untrue; and as soon as the soldier said, ‘No, that will take us straight back into the town we came from; we must keep on the left hand;’ they picked a quarrel with him, and said, ‘What do you give yourself airs for? you know nothing about it;’ and then they fell upon him and knocked him down, and beat him over the head till he was blind. Then they took all the money out of his pockets and dragged him to a gallows tree that stood hard by, bound him fast down at the foot of it, and went back into the town with the money; but the poor blind man did not know where he was; and he felt all around him, and finding that he was bound to a large beam of wood, thought it was a cross, and said, ‘After all, they have done kindly in leaving me under a cross; now Heaven will guard me;’ so he raised himself up and began to pray. When night came on, he heard something fluttering over his head. It turned out to be three crows, who flew round and round, and at last perched upon the tree. By and by they began to talk together, and he heard one of them say, ‘Sister, what is the best news with you to-day?’ ‘Oh, if men knew what we know!’ said the other; ‘the princess is ill, and the king has vowed to marry her to anyone who will cure her; but this none can do, for she will not be well until yonder flower is burnt to ashes and swallowed by her.’ ‘Oh, indeed,’ said the other crow, ‘if men did but know what we know! tonight will fall from heaven a dew of such healing power, that even the blind man who washes his eyes with it will see again;’ and the third spoke, and said, ‘Oh, if men knew what we know! the flower is wanted but for one, the dew is wanted but for few; but there is a great dearth of water in the town; all the wells are dried up; and no one knows that they must take away the large square stone out of the market-place, and dig underneath it, and that then the finest water will spring up.’ When the three crows had done talking, he heard them fluttering round again, and at last away they flew. Greatly wondering at what he had heard, and overjoyed at the thoughts of getting his sight, he tried with all his strength to break loose from his bonds; at last he found himself free, and plucked some of the grass that grew beneath him and washed his eyes with the dew that had fallen upon it. At once his eye-sight came to him again, and he saw by the light of the moon and the stars that he was beneath the gallows-tree, and not the cross, as he had thought. Then he gathered together in a bottle as much of the dew as he could to take away with him, and looked around till he saw the flower that grew close by; and when he had burned it he gathered up the ashes, and set out on his way towards the king’s court. When he reached the palace, he told the king he was come to cure the princess; and when she had taken of the ashes and been made well, he claimed her for his wife, as the reward that was to be given; but the king looking upon him and seeing that his clothes were so shabby, would not keep his word, and thought to get rid of him by saying, ‘Whoever wants to have the princess for his wife, must find enough water for the use of the town, where there is this summer a great dearth? Then the soldier went out and told the people to take up the square stone in the market-place and dig for water underneath; and when they had done so there came up a fine spring, that gave enough water for the whole town So the king could no longer get off giving him his daughter, and they were married and lived happily together. Some time after, as he was walking one day through a field, he met his two wicked comrades who had treated him so basely. Though they did not know him, he knew them at once, and went up to them and said, ‘Look upon me, I am your old comrade whom you beat and robbed and left blind; Heaven has defeated your wicked wishes, and turned all the mischief which you brought upon me into good luck.’ When they heard this they fell at his feet and begged for pardon, and he had a kind and good heart, so he forgave them, and took them to his palace and gave them food and clothes. And he told them all that had happened to him, and how he had reached these honours. After they had heard the whole story they said to themselves, ‘Why should not we go and sit some night under the gallows? we may hear something that will bring us good luck too.’ Next night they stole away; and, when they had sat under the tree a little while, they heard a fluttering noise over their heads; and the three crows came and perched upon it. ‘Sisters,’ said one of them, ‘some one must have overheard us, for all the world is talking of the wonderful things that have happened: the princess is well; the flower has been plucked and burnt; a blind man’s sight has been given him again, and they have dug a fresh well that gives water to the whole town: let us look about, perhaps we may find some one near; if we do he shall rue the day.’ Then they began to flutter about, and soon found out the two men below, and flew at them in a rage, beating and pecking them in the face with their wings and beaks till they were quite blind, and lay nearly dead upon the ground under the gallows. The next day passed over and they did not return to the palace; and their old comrade began to wonder where they had been, and went out the following morning in search of them, and at last found them where they lay, dreadfully repaid for all their folly and baseness.