What the old man does is always right


Hvad fatter gør, det er altid det rigtige

I will tell you a story that was told me when I was a little boy. Every time I thought of this story, it seemed to me more and more charming; for it is with stories as it is with many people– they become better as they grow older.

I have no doubt that you have been in the country, and seen a very old farmhouse, with a thatched roof, and mosses and small plants growing wild upon it. There is a stork's nest on the ridge of the gable, for we cannot do without the stork. The walls of the house are sloping, and the windows are low, and only one of the latter is made to open. The baking-oven sticks out of the wall like a great knob. An elder-tree hangs over the palings; and beneath its branches, at the foot of the paling, is a pool of water, in which a few ducks are disporting themselves. There is a yard-dog too, who barks at all corners. Just such a farmhouse as this stood in a country lane; and in it dwelt an old couple, a peasant and his wife. Small as their possessions were, they had one article they could not do without, and that was a horse, which contrived to live upon the grass which it found by the side of the high road. The old peasant rode into the town upon this horse, and his neighbors often borrowed it of him, and paid for the loan of it by rendering some service to the old couple. After a time they thought it would be as well to sell the horse, or exchange it for something which might be more useful to them. But what might this something be?

"You'll know best, old man," said the wife. "It is fair-day to-day; so ride into town, and get rid of the horse for money, or make a good exchange; whichever you do will be right to me, so ride to the fair."

And she fastened his neckerchief for him; for she could do that better than he could, and she could also tie it very prettily in a double bow. She also smoothed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand, and gave him a kiss. Then he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold or bartered for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about. The sun shone with great heat, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty; for a number of people, all going to the fair, were driving, riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter anywhere from the hot sunshine. Among the rest a man came trudging along, and driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any cow could be.

"She gives good milk, I am certain," said the peasant to himself. "That would be a very good exchange: the cow for the horse. Hallo there! you with the cow," he said. "I tell you what; I dare say a horse is of more value than a cow; but I don't care for that,– a cow will be more useful to me; so, if you like, we'll exchange."

"To be sure I will," said the man.

Accordingly the exchange was made; and as the matter was settled, the peasant might have turned back; for he had done the business he came to do. But, having made up his mind to go to the fair, he determined to do so, if only to have a look at it; so on he went to the town with his cow. Leading the animal, he strode on sturdily, and, after a short time, overtook a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep, with a fine fleece on its back.

"I should like to have that fellow," said the peasant to himself. "There is plenty of grass for him by our palings, and in the winter we could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more profitable to have a sheep than a cow. Shall I exchange?"

The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was quickly made. And then our peasant continued his way on the high-road with his sheep. Soon after this, he overtook another man, who had come into the road from a field, and was carrying a large goose under his arm.

"What a heavy creature you have there!" said the peasant; "it has plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a string, or paddling in the water at our place. That would be very useful to my old woman; she could make all sorts of profits out of it. How often she has said, 'If now we only had a goose!' Now here is an opportunity, and, if possible, I will get it for her. Shall we exchange? I will give you my sheep for your goose, and thanks into the bargain."

The other had not the least objection, and accordingly the exchange was made, and our peasant became possessor of the goose. By this time he had arrived very near the town. The crowd on the high road had been gradually increasing, and there was quite a rush of men and cattle. The cattle walked on the path and by the palings, and at the turnpike-gate they even walked into the toll-keeper's potato-field, where one fowl was strutting about with a string tied to its leg, for fear it should take fright at the crowd, and run away and get lost. The tail-feathers of the fowl were very short, and it winked with both its eyes, and looked very cunning, as it said "Cluck, cluck." What were the thoughts of the fowl as it said this I cannot tell you; but directly our good man saw it, he thought, "Why that's the finest fowl I ever saw in my life; it's finer than our parson's brood hen, upon my word. I should like to have that fowl. Fowls can always pick up a few grains that lie about, and almost keep themselves. I think it would be a good exchange if I could get it for my goose. Shall we exchange?" he asked the toll-keeper.

"Exchange," repeated the man; "well, it would not be a bad thing."

And so they made an exchange,– the toll-keeper at the turnpike-gate kept the goose, and the peasant carried off the fowl. Now he had really done a great deal of business on his way to the fair, and he was hot and tired. He wanted something to eat, and a glass of ale to refresh himself; so he turned his steps to an inn. He was just about to enter when the ostler came out, and they met at the door. The ostler was carrying a sack. "What have you in that sack?" asked the peasant.

"Rotten apples," answered the ostler; "a whole sackful of them. They will do to feed the pigs with."

"Why that will be terrible waste," he replied; "I should like to take them home to my old woman. Last year the old apple-tree by the grass-plot only bore one apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till it was quite withered and rotten. It was always property, my old woman said; and here she would see a great deal of property– a whole sackful; I should like to show them to her."

"What will you give me for the sackful?" asked the ostler.

"What will I give? Well, I will give you my fowl in exchange."

So he gave up the fowl, and received the apples, which he carried into the inn parlor. He leaned the sack carefully against the stove, and then went to the table. But the stove was hot, and he had not thought of that. Many guests were present– horse dealers, cattle drovers, and two Englishmen. The Englishmen were so rich that their pockets quite bulged out and seemed ready to burst; and they could bet too, as you shall hear. "Hiss-s-s, hiss-s-s." What could that be by the stove? The apples were beginning to roast. "What is that?" asked one.

"Why, do you know"– said our peasant. And then he told them the whole story of the horse, which he had exchanged for a cow, and all the rest of it, down to the apples.

"Well, your old woman will give it you well when you get home," said one of the Englishmen. "Won't there be a noise?"

"What! Give me what?" said the peasant. "Why, she will kiss me, and say, 'what the old man does is always right.'"

"Let us lay a wager on it," said the Englishmen. "We'll wager you a ton of coined gold, a hundred pounds to the hundred-weight."

"No; a bushel will be enough," replied the peasant. "I can only set a bushel of apples against it, and I'll throw myself and my old woman into the bargain; that will pile up the measure, I fancy."

"Done! taken!" and so the bet was made.

Then the landlord's coach came to the door, and the two Englishmen and the peasant got in, and away they drove, and soon arrived and stopped at the peasant's hut. "Good evening, old woman." - "Good evening, old man." - "I've made the exchange."

"Ah, well, you understand what you're about," said the woman. Then she embraced him, and paid no attention to the strangers, nor did she notice the sack.

"I got a cow in exchange for the horse."

"Thank Heaven," said she. "Now we shall have plenty of milk, and butter, and cheese on the table. That was a capital exchange."

"Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep."

"Ah, better still!" cried the wife. "You always think of everything; we have just enough pasture for a sheep. Ewe's milk and cheese, woollen jackets and stockings! The cow could not give all these, and her hair only falls off. How you think of everything!"

"But I changed away the sheep for a goose."

"Then we shall have roast goose to eat this year. You dear old man, you are always thinking of something to please me. This is delightful. We can let the goose walk about with a string tied to her leg, so she will be fatter still before we roast her."

"But I gave away the goose for a fowl."

"A fowl! Well, that was a good exchange," replied the woman. "The fowl will lay eggs and hatch them, and we shall have chickens; we shall soon have a poultry-yard. Oh, this is just what I was wishing for."

"Yes, but I exchanged the fowl for a sack of shrivelled apples."

"What! I really must give you a kiss for that!" exclaimed the wife. "My dear, good husband, now I'll tell you something. Do you know, almost as soon as you left me this morning, I began to think of what I could give you nice for supper this evening, and then I thought of fried eggs and bacon, with sweet herbs; I had eggs and bacon, but I wanted the herbs; so I went over to the schoolmaster's: I knew they had plenty of herbs, but the schoolmistress is very mean, although she can smile so sweetly. I begged her to lend me a handful of herbs. 'Lend!' she exclaimed, 'I have nothing to lend; nothing at all grows in our garden, not even a shrivelled apple; I could not even lend you a shrivelled apple, my dear woman.' But now I can lend her ten, or a whole sackful, which I'm very glad of; it makes me laugh to think about it;" and then she gave him a hearty kiss.

"Well, I like all this," said both the Englishmen; "always going down the hill, and yet always merry; it's worth the money to see it." So they paid a hundred-weight of gold to the peasant, who, whatever he did, was not scolded but kissed.

Yes, it always pays best when the wife sees and maintains that her husband knows best, and whatever he does is right.

That is a story which I heard when I was a child; and now you have heard it too, and know that "What the old man does is always right."
Nu skal jeg fortælle dig en historie, som jeg har hørt, da jeg var lille, og hver gang jeg siden har tænkt på den, synes jeg at den blev meget kønnere; for det går med historier ligesom med mange mennesker, de bliver kønnere og kønnere med alderen, og det er så fornøjeligt!

Du har jo været ude på landet? Du har set et rigtigt gammelt bondehus med stråtag; mos og urter vokser der af sig selv; en storkerede er der på rygningen, storken kan man ikke undvære, væggene er skæve, vinduerne lave, ja, der er kun et eneste, der kan lukkes op; bageovnen strutter frem ligesom en lille tyk mave, og hyldebusken hælder hen over gærdet, hvor der er en lille pyt vand med en and eller ællinger, lige under det knudrede piletræ. Ja, og så er der en lænkehund, der g?r af alle og enhver.

Netop sådant et bondehus var der ude på landet, og i det boede et par folk, bondemand og bondekone. I hvor lidt de havde, kunne de dog undvære ét stykke, det var en hest, der gik og græssede på landevejsgrøften. Fader red på den til byen, naboerne lånte den, og han fik tjeneste for tjeneste, men det var nok mere tjensomt for dem at sælge hesten eller bytte den for et og andet, der endnu mere kunne være dem til gavn. Men hvad skulle det være.

"Det vil du, fatter, bedst forstå!" sagde konen, "nu er der marked i købstaden, rid du derind, få penge for hesten eller gør et godt bytte; som du gør, er det altid det rigtige. Rid til markedet!"

Og så bandt hun hans halsklud, for det forstod hun dog bedre end han; hun bandt med dobbelt sløjfe, det så galant ud, og så pudsede hun hans hat med sin flade hånd, og hun kyssede ham på hans varme mund, og så red han af sted på hesten, som skulle sælges eller byttes bort. Jo, fatter forstod det.

Solen brændte, der var ingen skyer oppe! Vejen støvede, der var så mange markedsfolk, til vogns og til hest og på deres egne ben. Det var en solhede, og der var ikke skygge skabt på vejen.

Der gik en og drev en ko, den var så nydelig, som en ko kan være. "Den giver vist dejlig mælk!" tænkte bondemanden, det kunne være et ganske godt bytte at få den. "Ved du hvad, du med koen!" sagde han, "skal vi to ikke tale lidt sammen! ser du, en hest, tror jeg nok, koster mere end en ko, men det er det samme! jeg har mere gavn af koen; skal vi bytte?"

"Ja nok!" sagde manden med koen og så byttede de.

Nu var det gjort, og så kunne bondemanden have vendt om, han havde jo udrettet, hvad han ville, men da han nu engang havde betænkt at ville komme til marked, så ville han komme til marked, bare for at se på det; og så gik han med sin ko. Han gik rask til, og koen gik rask til, og så kom de snart til at gå lige ved siden af en mand, der førte et får. Det var et godt får, godt i stand og godt med uld.

"Det gad jeg nok eje!" tænkte bonden. "Det ville ikke komme til at savne græsning på vor grøftekant, og til vinter kunne man tage det ind i stuen hos sig. I grunden var det rigtigere af os at holde får, end holde ko. Skal vi bytte?"

Ja, det ville da nok manden, som havde fåret, og så blev det bytte gjort, og bondemanden gik med sit får hen ad landevejen. Der ved stenten så han en mand med en stor gås under armen.

"Det er en svær én, du der har!" sagde bondemanden, "den har både fjer og fedt! den kunne tage sig godt ud i tøjr ved vor vandpyt! den var noget for moder at samle skrællinger til! Hun har tit sagt, "bare vi havde en gås!" nu kan hun da få den – og hun skal få den! vil du bytte? Jeg giver dig fåret for gåsen og tak til!"

Ja, det ville da den anden nok, og så byttede de; bondemanden fik gåsen. Nær ved byen var han, trængslen på vejen tog til, der var en myldren af folk og fæ; de gik på vej og på grøft lige op i bommandens kartofler, hvor hans høne stod tøjret for ikke i forskrækkelse at forvilde sig og blive borte. Det var en stumprumpet høne, der blinkede med det ene øje, så godt ud. "Kluk, kluk!" sagde den; hvad den tænkte derved, kan jeg ikke sige, men bondemanden tænkte, da han så hende: Hun er den skønneste høne, jeg endnu har set, hun er kønnere end præstens liggehøne, den gad jeg nok eje! en høne finder altid et korn, den kan næsten sørge for sig selv! jeg tror, at det er et godt bytte, om jeg fik den for gåsen! "skal vi bytte?" spurgte han. "Bytte!" sagde den anden, "ja det var jo ikke så galt!" og så byttede de. Bommanden fik gåsen, bondemanden fik hønen.

Det var en hel del, han havde udrettet på den rejse til byen; og varmt var det, og træt var han. En dram og en bid brød trængte han til; nu var han ved kroen, der ville han ind; men krokarlen ville ud, ham mødte han lige i døren med en pose svingende fuld af noget.

"Hvad har du der?" spurgte bondemanden.

"Rådne æbler!" svarede karlen, "en hel sækfuld til svinene!"

"Det er da en farlig mængde! det syn undte jeg mor. Vi havde i fjor kun et eneste æble på det gamle træ ved tørvehuset! det æble skulle gemmes, og det stod på dragkisten til det sprak. Det er altid en velstand! sagde vor mor, her kunne hun få velstand at se! ja, jeg kunne unde hende det!"

"Ja, hvad giver I?" spurgte karlen.

"Giver? Jeg giver min høne i bytte," og så gav han hønen i bytte, fik æblerne og gik ind i krostuen, lige hen til skænken, sin sæk med æblerne stillede han op mod kakkelovnen, og der var lagt i, det betænkte han ikke. Mange fremmede var her i stuen, hestehandlere, studehandlere og to englændere, og de er så rige, at deres lommer revner af guldpenge; væddemål gør de, nu skal du høre!

"Susss! susss!" hvad var det for en lyd ved kakkelovnen? Æblerne begyndte at stege.

"Hvad er det?" Ja, det fik de da snart at vide! hele historien om hesten, der var byttet bort for koen og lige ned til de rådne æbler.

"Nå! du får knubs af mutter, når du kommer hjem!" sagde englænderne, "der vil ligge et hus!"

"Jeg får kys og ikke knubs!" sagde bondemanden, "vor mor vil sige: Hvad fatter gør, er det rigtige!"

"Skal vi vædde!" sagde de, "guldmønt i pundevis! hundrede pund er et skippund!"

"Det er nok at give skæppen fuld!" sagde bondemanden, "jeg kan kun stille skæppen fuld med æbler og mig selv og mutter med, men det er da mere end strygmål, det er topmål!"

"Top! top!" sagde de, og så var væddemålet gjort.

Kromandens vogn kom frem, englænderne kom op, bondemanden kom op, de rådne æbler kom op, og så kom de til bondens hus.

"God aften, mor!"

"Tak, far!"

"Nu har jeg gjort bytte!"

"Ja, du forstår det!" sagde konen, tog ham om livet og glemte både pose og de fremmede.

"Jeg har byttet hesten bort for en ko!"

"Gud ske lov for mælken!" sagde konen, "nu kan vi få mælkemad, smør og ost på bordet. Det var et dejligt bytte!"

"Ja, men koen byttede jeg igen bort for et får!"

"Det er bestemt også bedre!" sagde konen, "du er altid betænksom; til et får har vi just fuldt op af græsning. Nu kan vi få fåremælk og fåreost og uldne strømper, ja, ulden nattrøje! den giver koen ikke! hun taber hårene! Du er en inderlig betænksom mand!"

"Men fåret har jeg byttet bort for en gås!"

"Skal vi virkelig have mortensgås i år, lille fatter! Du tænker altid på at fornøje mig! det er en yndig tanke af dig! Gåsen kan stå i tøjr og blive endnu mere fed til mortensdag!"

"Men gåsen har jeg byttet bort for en høne!" sagde manden.

"Høne! det var et godt bytte," sagde konen, "Hønen lægger æg, den ruger ud, vi får kyllinger, vi får hønsegård! det har jeg just så inderligt ønsket mig!"

"Ja, men hønen byttede jeg bort for en pose rådne æbler!"

"Nu må jeg kysse dig!" sagde konen, "tak, min egen mand! Nu skal jeg fortælle dig noget. Da du var af sted, tænkte jeg på at lave et rigtigt godt måltid til dig: Æggekage med purløg. Æggene havde jeg, løgene manglede mig. Så gik jeg over til skoleholderens, der har de purløg, ved jeg, men konen er gerrig, det søde asen! jeg bad om at låne –! låne? sagde hun. Ingenting gror i vor have, ikke engang et råddent æble! ikke det kan jeg låne hende! nu kan jeg låne hende ti, ja, en hel pose fuld! det er grin, far!" og så kyssede hun ham lige midt på munden.

"Det kan jeg lide!" sagde englænderne. "Altid ned ad bakke og altid lige glad! det er nok pengene værd!" og så betalte de et skippund guldpenge til bondemanden, som fik kys og ikke knubs.

Jo, det lønner sig altid, at konen indser og forklarer at fatter er den klogeste, og hvad han gør, er det rigtige.

Se, det er nu en historie! den har jeg hørt som lille, og nu har du også hørt den og ved, at hvad fatter gør, det er altid det rigtige.

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