The Northern Way

Popular Tales From the Norse

Farmer Weathersky - Cont'd

"Now you must let fall the chips of wood which you took from under the gray stone at the stable door," said the Eagle.

Yes, the man let them fall, and they grew at once up into tall thick wood, so that Farmer Weathersky had to go back home to fetch an axe to hew his way through. While he did this, the Eagle flew ever so far, but when it got tired, it lighted on a fir to rest.

"Do you see anything?" it said.

"Well, I'm not sure," said the man; "but I fancy I catch a glimpse of something far away."

"We'd best be off then," said the Eagle; and off it flew as fast as it could. After a while it said,--

"Do you see anything now?"

"Yes; now he's close behind us," said the man.

"Now, you must drop the big stone you lifted up at the stable door," said the Eagle.

The man did so, and as it fell, it became a great high mountain, which Farmer Weathersky had to break his way through. When he had got half through the mountain, he tripped and broke one of his legs, and so he had to limp home again and patch it up.

But while he was doing this, the Eagle flew away to the p. 292 man's house with him and the hare, and as soon as they got home, the man went into the churchyard and sprinkled Christian mould over the hare, and lo! it turned into "Jack," his son.

Well, you may fancy the old dame was glad to get her son again, but still she wasn't easy in her mind about his trade, and she wouldn't rest till he gave her a proof that he was "master above all masters."

So when the fair came round, the lad changed himself into a bay horse, and told his father to lead him to the fair.

"Now, when any one comes," he said, "to buy me, you may ask a hundred dollars for me; but mind you don't forget to take the headstall off me; if you do, Farmer Weathersky will keep me for ever, for he it is who will come to deal with you."

So it turned out. Up came a horse-dealer, who had a great wish to deal for the horse, and he gave a hundred dollars down for him; but when the bargain was struck, and Jack's father had pocketed the money, the horse-dealer wanted to have the headstall. "Nay, nay!" said the man, "there's nothing about that in the bargain; and besides, you can't have the headstall, for I've other horses at home to bring to town to-morrow."

So each went his way, but they hadn't gone far before Jack took his own shape and ran away, and when his father got home, there sat Jack in the ingle.

Next day he turned himself into a brown horse, and told his father to drive him to the fair.

"And when any one comes to buy me, you may ask two hundred dollars for me--he'll give that and treat you besides: but whatever you do, and however much you p. 293 drink, don't forget to take the headstall off me, else you'll never set eyes on me again."

So all happened as he had said; the man got two hundred dollars for the horse and a glass of drink besides, and when the buyer and seller parted, it was as much as he could do to remember to take off the headstall. But, the buyer and the horse hadn't got far on the road before Jack took his own shape, and when the man got home, there sat Jack in the ingle.

The third day it was the same story over again; the lad turned himself into a black horse, and told his father some one would come and bid three hundred dollars for him, and fill his skin with meat and drink besides; but however much he ate or drank, he was to mind and not forget to take the headstall off, else he'd have to stay with Farmer Weathersky all his life long.

"No, no; I'll not forget, never fear," said the man.

So when he came to the fair, he got three hundred dollars for the horse, and as it wasn't to be a dry bargain, Farmer Weathersky made him drink so much that he quite forgot to take the headstall off, and away went Farmer Weathersky with the horse. Now when he had gone a little way, Farmer Weathersky thought he would just stop and have another glass of brandy; so he put a barrel of red-hot nails under his horse's nose, and a sieve of oats under his tail, hung the halter upon a hook, and went into the inn. So the horse stood there, and stamped and pawed, and snorted and reared. Just then out came a lassie, who thought it a shame to treat a horse so.

"Oh, poor beastie," she said, "what a cruel master you must have to treat you so," and as she said this she pulled p. 294 the halter off the hook, so that the horse might turn round and taste the oats.

"I'm after you," roared Farmer Weathersky, who came rushing out of the door.

But the horse had already shaken off the headstall, and jumped into a duck-pond, where he turned himself into a tiny fish. In went Farmer Weathersky after him, and turned himself into a great pike. Then Jack turned himself into a dove, and Farmer Weathersky made himself into a hawk, and chased and struck at the dove. But just then a Princess stood at the window of the palace and saw this struggle.

"Ah! poor dove," she cried, "if you only knew what I know, you'd fly to me through this window."

So the dove came flying in through the window and turned itself into Jack again, who told his own tale.

"Turn yourself into a gold ring, and put yourself on my finger," said the Princess.

"Nay, nay!" said Jack, "that'll never do, for then Farmer Weathersky will make the King sick, and then there'll be no one who can make him well again till Farmer Weathersky comes and cures him, and then, for his fee, he'll ask for that gold ring."

"Then I'll say I had it from my mother, and can't part with it," said the Princess.

Well, Jack turned himself into a gold ring, and put himself on the Princess' finger, and so Farmer Weathersky couldn't get at him. But then followed what the lad had foretold; the King fell sick, and there wasn't a doctor in the kingdom who could cure him till Farmer Weathersky came, and he asked for the ring off the Princess' finger for p. 295 his fee. So the King sent a messenger to the Princess for the ring; but the Princess said she wouldn't part with it, her mother had left it her. When the King heard that, he flew into a rage, and said he would have the ring, whoever left it to her.

"Well," said the Princess, "it's no good being cross about it. I can't get it off, and if you must have the ring, you must take my finger too."

"If you'll let me try, I'll soon get the ring off," said Farmer Weathersky.

"No, thanks, I'll try myself," said the Princess, and flew off to the grate and put ashes on her finger. Then the ring slipped off and was lost among the ashes. So Farmer Weathersky turned himself into a cook, who scratched and pecked after the ring in the grate, till he was up to the ears in ashes. But while he was doing this, Jack turned himself into a fox, and bit off the cock's head, and so if the Evil One was in Farmer Weathersky, it is all over with him now.

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