Friday, 14 July 2017

HCA: 'Hans og Grethe' (published together with 'De blaae Bjerge')

Hans and Grethe


Two brothers each owned a fine farm, and as the brothers were neighbours, they often visited each other and talked about their housekeeping and livelihood, the one could not praise his farmhand’s integrity highly enough, the other likewise the ingenuity of his servant girl. Now the elder brother had a magnificent stallion in his stable, the younger a lovely mare, both of the same colour and size. Again and again, conversation centred on these animals, the elder brother wanted to buy the mare, the young was interested in obtaining the stallion. They agreed that both animals ought to have but one master, but they never got down to doing business.
On one occasion when they once more were talking about the matter, the younger brother exclaimed: ‘Well now! I bet you that I, without your knowledge, can obtain the stallion, and that your honest farmhand himself will lead him to me!’
‘And I,’ the elder brother said, ‘bet my stallion against your mare that this will not happen, for even if the farmhand were to steal him, he would tell me so!’
‘Oh, you believe that, do you!’ the younger one said.
‘I am sure of his honesty!’ The bet was made and the brothers parted.
The following morning the elder brother called his servant girl to him and told her of the wager between himself and his brother: ‘I now rely on your ingenuity!’
‘You leave that to me!’ Grethe said and that same evening went over the the farmhand.
‘Good evening, Hans!’
‘And to you, little Grethe!’
‘Industrious as ever, I see!’
‘Yes, that is one’s duty and obligation!’
‘I have heard tell that you stable is as neat as a new pin. That I would dearly like to see!’ Hans felt flattered and asked her to step inside. She praised what there was to be praised, and helped him with what he still had left to get done.
‘That little Grethe really quite a lovely, nice-natured girl!’ Hans thought –
– The following day, it was a Saturday, Grethe came once more.
‘Good evening, Hans!’
‘And to you, little Grethe!’
‘I hope you’re not angry that I’m back again today!’
‘No, how could you get such an idea!’
‘Have you already finished work for the day?
‘Yes, I’ve finished everything! I have looked sharp about it, because, you know what, I was wondering if perhaps little Grethe might come over here!’
They sat down and chatted. Hans soon noticed that Grethe was well able to speak for herself and that she was an extremely sensible girl, so he asked her if she would dance with him on Sunday afternoon.
Grethe came and went together with Hans. They danced until late in the evening. Then Grethe said: ‘Good heavens, how late it’s become! I ought to have been home by now! You must saddle the stallion and ride home with me!’
Hans didn’t need to be asked twice about this. He lifted her up onto his horse and they rode off into the dark evening. So that she wouldn’t fall off, he held her arm tightly around her, and as they rode, he simply had to tell her how fond he had grown of her. She now thought that this was the right moment to tell him what was on her mind: that her master very much wanted to have the stallion they were riding on, and that he had promised her a large reward, and if she got it, it would be a good dowry.
‘Will you do that, dear Hans?’ she asked him and kissed him.
Now poor Hans had to do as she asked, whether he wanted to or not, but how was he to conceal this theft from his master?
‘You must think of something!’ Grethe said. ‘Say that this evening on your way home you got lost, and the wolves attacked you, so you had to abandon the horse. The wolves have devoured everything except the bones. You can take him out and show him these – I’ll make sure that there are some bloody horse bones lying in the forest!’
That is what took place – Hans let Grethe keep the stallion and went home on foot.
But Hans couldn’t sleep, it tormented him terribly how he was to present his lie in the morning, he couldn’t stay in bed, he had to get up and try out how he was to go about lying. He went out the door of his room, then knocked on it and entered once more, and turned towards a corner where a broom stood that was to represent his master.
‘Good morning, Hans!’
‘And to you, good master!’
‘Well, how’s the stallion doing?’
Ah, master! The stallion –!’ and there he came to a halt, he couldn’t find anything to say. So he went out the door again, and did the same as before.
‘Good morning, Hans!’
‘And to you, good master!’
‘Well, how’s the stallion doing?’
Ah, master! The stallion –!’ and there he came to a halt again. The lie stuck in his throat and lay heavy on his heart.
Quite early in the morning he entered his master’s room.
‘Good morning, Hans!’
‘And to you, good master!’
‘Well, how’s the stallion doing?’
Ah, dear master! The stallion –!’ he stopped speaking, but only for a moment, and then said: ‘The stallion has been stolen and I myself am the thief, just let me be hanged for it!’ He then told his master how it had all come about, that Grethe had coaxed him, and that the stallion was with the master’s own brother.
 His master was delighted with the proven honesty of his farmhand, forgave him and even promised a reward, just as the brother had promised his servant girl. ‘If it is still your serious intention to marry Grethe,’ she said, ‘bring her with you into the house here and then I will not only have an honest farmhand but an ingenious woman as well!’
That greatly pleased Hans;  honesty had won the bet, while the other brother, who only put his trust in ingenuity, had to give up both his servant girl and the mare – and that was as it should be.


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