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Clever Elsie

  • There was once a man who had a daughter who was called Clever Elsie. And when
  • she had grown up her father said: 'We will get her married.' 'Yes,' said the
  • mother, 'if only someone would come who would have her.' At length a man came
  • from a distance and wooed her, who was called Hans; but he stipulated that
  • Clever Elsie should be really smart. 'Oh,' said the father, 'she has plenty of
  • good sense'; and the mother said: 'Oh, she can see the wind coming up the
  • street, and hear the flies coughing.' 'Well,' said Hans, 'if she is not really
  • smart, I won't have her.' When they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, the
  • mother said: 'Elsie, go into the cellar and fetch some beer.' Then Clever
  • Elsie took the pitcher from the wall, went into the cellar, and tapped the lid
  • briskly as she went, so that the time might not appear long. When she was
  • below she fetched herself a chair, and set it before the barrel so that she
  • had no need to stoop, and did not hurt her back or do herself any unexpected
  • injury. Then she placed the can before her, and turned the tap, and while the
  • beer was running she would not let her eyes be idle, but looked up at the
  • wall, and after much peering here and there, saw a pick-axe exactly above her,
  • which the masons had accidentally left there.
  • Then Clever Elsie began to weep and said: 'If I get Hans, and we have a child,
  • and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar here to draw beer, then the
  • pick-axe will fall on his head and kill him.' Then she sat and wept and
  • screamed with all the strength of her body, over the misfortune which lay
  • before her. Those upstairs waited for the drink, but Clever Elsie still did
  • not come. Then the woman said to the servant: 'Just go down into the cellar
  • and see where Elsie is.' The maid went and found her sitting in front of the
  • barrel, screaming loudly. 'Elsie why do you weep?' asked the maid. 'Ah,' she
  • answered, 'have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and
  • he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fall on his
  • head, and kill him.' Then said the maid: 'What a clever Elsie we have!' and
  • sat down beside her and began loudly to weep over the misfortune. After a
  • while, as the maid did not come back, and those upstairs were thirsty for the
  • beer, the man said to the boy: 'Just go down into the cellar and see where
  • Elsie and the girl are.' The boy went down, and there sat Clever Elsie and the
  • girl both weeping together. Then he asked: 'Why are you weeping?' 'Ah,' said
  • Elsie, 'have I not reason to weep? If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he
  • grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will fall on his head and
  • kill him.' Then said the boy: 'What a clever Elsie we have!' and sat down by
  • her, and likewise began to howl loudly. Upstairs they waited for the boy, but
  • as he still did not return, the man said to the woman: 'Just go down into the
  • cellar and see where Elsie is!' The woman went down, and found all three in
  • the midst of their lamentations, and inquired what was the cause; then Elsie
  • told her also that her future child was to be killed by the pick-axe, when it
  • grew big and had to draw beer, and the pick-axe fell down. Then said the
  • mother likewise: 'What a clever Elsie we have!' and sat down and wept with
  • them. The man upstairs waited a short time, but as his wife did not come back
  • and his thirst grew ever greater, he said: 'I must go into the cellar myself
  • and see where Elsie is.' But when he got into the cellar, and they were all
  • sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and that Elsie's child was
  • the cause, and the Elsie might perhaps bring one into the world some day, and
  • that he might be killed by the pick-axe, if he should happen to be sitting
  • beneath it, drawing beer just at the very time when it fell down, he cried:
  • 'Oh, what a clever Elsie!' and sat down, and likewise wept with them. The
  • bridegroom stayed upstairs alone for along time; then as no one would come
  • back he thought: 'They must be waiting for me below: I too must go there and
  • see what they are about.' When he got down, the five of them were sitting
  • screaming and lamenting quite piteously, each out-doing the other. 'What
  • misfortune has happened then?' asked he. 'Ah, dear Hans,' said Elsie, 'if we
  • marry each other and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send him here
  • to draw something to drink, then the pick-axe which has been left up there
  • might dash his brains out if it were to fall down, so have we not reason to
  • weep?' 'Come,' said Hans, 'more understanding than that is not needed for my
  • household, as you are such a clever Elsie, I will have you,' and seized her
  • hand, took her upstairs with him, and married her.
  • After Hans had had her some time, he said: 'Wife, I am going out to work and
  • earn some money for us; go into the field and cut the corn that we may have
  • some bread.' 'Yes, dear Hans, I will do that.' After Hans had gone away, she
  • cooked herself some good broth and took it into the field with her. When she
  • came to the field she said to herself: 'What shall I do; shall I cut first, or
  • shall I eat first? Oh, I will eat first.' Then she drank her cup of broth and
  • when she was fully satisfied, she once more said: 'What shall I do? Shall I
  • cut first, or shall I sleep first? I will sleep first.' Then she lay down
  • among the corn and fell asleep. Hans had been at home for a long time, but
  • Elsie did not come; then said he: 'What a clever Elsie I have; she is so
  • industrious that she does not even come home to eat.' But when evening came
  • and she still stayed away, Hans went out to see what she had cut, but nothing
  • was cut, and she was lying among the corn asleep. Then Hans hastened home and
  • brought a fowler's net with little bells and hung it round about her, and she
  • still went on sleeping. Then he ran home, shut the house-door, and sat down in
  • his chair and worked. At length, when it was quite dark, Clever Elsie awoke
  • and when she got up there was a jingling all round about her, and the bells
  • rang at each step which she took. Then she was alarmed, and became uncertain
  • whether she really was Clever Elsie or not, and said: 'Is it I, or is it not
  • I?' But she knew not what answer to make to this, and stood for a time in
  • doubt; at length she thought: 'I will go home and ask if it be I, or if it be
  • not I, they will be sure to know.' She ran to the door of her own house, but
  • it was shut; then she knocked at the window and cried: 'Hans, is Elsie
  • within?' 'Yes,' answered Hans, 'she is within.' Hereupon she was terrified,
  • and said: 'Ah, heavens! Then it is not I,' and went to another door; but when
  • the people heard the jingling of the bells they would not open it, and she
  • could get in nowhere. Then she ran out of the village, and no one has seen her
  • since.