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the town on this horse; and often his neighbors borrowed it of him, and rendered the old couple some service in return for the loan of it. But they thought it would be best if they sold the horse, or exchanged it for something that might be more useful to them. But what might this something be?
“You'll know that 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. Ride off to the fair.”
And she fastened his neckerchief for him, for she could do that better than he could; and she tied it in a double bow, for she could do that very prettily. Then she brushed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand, and gave him a kiss. So he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold or to be bartered for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about.
The sun shone hotly down, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty, for many people, who were all bound for the fair, were driving, or riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter anywhere from the sunbeams.
Among the rest, a man was trudging along, driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any cow can be.
"She gives good milk, I'm sure,” said the peasant. “That would be a very good exchange—the cow for the horse.”
“Hallo, you there with the cow!” he said; “I tell you what I fancy a horse costs more than a cow, but I don't care for that; a cow would be more useful to me. If you like, we'll exchange.”
“To be sure I will,” returned the man; and they exchanged accordingly.
So that was settled, and the peasant might have turned back, for he had done the business he came to do; but as he had once made up his mind to go to the fair, he determined to proceed, merely to have a look at it; and so he went on to the town with his cow. .
Leading the animal, he strode sturdily on; and after a short time he 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 our peasant to himself. “He would find plenty of grass by our palings, and in the winter we could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more practical to have a sheep instead of a cow. Shall we exchange?”.
The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was struck. So our peasant went on in the highroad with his sheep.
Soon he overtook another man, who came into the road from a field, carrying a great goose under his arm.
“That's a heavy thing you have there. It has plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a string, and paddling in the water at our place. That would be something for my old woman; she could make much profit out of it. How often she has said, 'If we only had a goose!' Now, perhaps, she can have one. Shall we exchange? I'll give you my sheep for your goose, and thank you into the bargain.”
The other man had not the least objection; and
accordingly they exchanged, and our peasant became the owner of the goose.
By this time he was very near the town. The crowd on the highroad became greater and greater; there was quite a crush of men and cattle. They walked in the road, and close by the paling; and at the barrier they even walked into the tollman's potato field, where his own fowl was strutting about with a string to its legs, lest it should take fright at the crowd, and stray away, and so be lost. This fowl had short tail feathers, and winked with both its eyes, and looked very cunning. “Cluck! cluck!" said the fowl. What it thought when it said this I cannot tell you; but as soon as our good man saw it, he thought, “That's the finest fowl I've ever seen in my life! Why, it's finer than our parson's brood hen. On my word, I should like to have that fowl. A fowl can always find a grain or two, and can almost keep itself. I think it would be a good exchange if I could get that in exchange for my goose. Shall we exchange?” he asked the toll taker.
"Exchange!” repeated the man; "well, that would not be a bad thing.”
And so they exchanged; the toll taker at the barrier kept the goose, and the peasant carried away the fowl.
Now, he had done a good deal of business on his way to the fair, and he was hot and tired. He wanted something to eat and to drink; and soon he was in front of the inn. He was just about to step in, when the hostler came out; so they met at the door. The hostler was carrying a sack.
“What have you in that sack?” asked the peasant. “Rotten apples," answered the hostler; “a whole sackful of them-enough to feed the pigs with.”
“Why, that's terrible waste! I should like to take them to my old woman at home. Last year the old tree by the turf-hole only bore a single apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till it was quite rotten and spoiled. “It was always property,' my old woman said; but here she could see a quantity of property—a whole sackful. Yes, I shall be glad to show them to her.”
“What will you give me for the sackful ?” asked the hostler.
“What will I give? I will give my fowl in exchange.”
And he gave the fowl accordingly, and received the apples, which he carried into the guest room. He leaned the sack carefully by the stove, and then went to the table. But the stove was hot; he had not thought of that. Many guests were presenthorse dealers, ox-herds, and two Englishmen—and the two Englishmen were so rich that their pockets bulged out with gold coins, and almost burst; and they could wager, too, as you shall hear.
Hiss-s-s! hiss-s-s! What was that by the stove? The apples were beginning to roast. “What is that?” “Why, do you know- ” said our peasant.
And he told the whole story of the horse that 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. “There will be a disturbance.”
“What?-give me what?” said the peasant.
“She will kiss me, and say, 'What the old man does is always right.'”
"Shall we wager?” said the Englishman. “We'll wager coined gold by the ton—a hundred pounds to the hundredweight!”
“A bushel will be enough,” replied the peasant. “I can only set the bushel of apples against it; and I'll throw myself and my old woman into the bargain—and I fancy that's piling up the measure.”
And the bet was made. The host's carriage came up, and the Englishmen got in, and the peasant got in; away they went, and soon they stopped before the peasant's hut.
“Good evening, old woman.”
“Yes, you understand what you're about,” said the woman.
And she embraced him, and paid no attention to the stranger guests, nor did she notice the sack.
"I got a cow in exchange for the horse,” said he.
“Heaven be thanked !” said she. “What glorious milk we shall now have, and butter and cheese upon the table! That was a most capital exchange!"
“Yes, but I exchanged the cow for a sheep."
"Ah, that's better still!” cried the wife. "You always think of everything; we have just pasture enough for a sheep. Ewe's milk and cheese, and woolen jackets and stockings! The cow cannot give those, and her hairs will only come off. How you think of everything!”
“But I changed away the sheep for a goose." “Then this year we shall have really roast goose