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Main > Celtic folktales > Fairy tale "The mouldy Penny"

The mouldy Penny

"There's old Vrek. He has been hoarding coins for the last fifty years. Now, he has a pile of gold in guilders and stivers, but there's hardly anything of his old self left. His soul is as small as a shrimp. I whispered to him not to let out his money in trade, but to keep it shut up. His strong box is full to bursting, but what went into the chest has oozed out of the man. He died, last night, and hardly anybody considers him worth burying. Some one on the street to-day asked what Vrek had left behind. The answer was 'Nothing—he took it all with him, for he had so little to take.'"

"That's jolly," said the older kabouter, who was a wicked looking fellow. "I'll get some fun out of this. To shrivel up souls will be my business henceforth. There's nothing like this newfangled business of getting money, that will do it so surely."

So this ugly old imp went "snooping" around, as the Dutch say, about people who sneak and dodge in and out of places, to which they ought not to go, and in houses where they should not be found. This imp's purpose was to make men crazy on the subject of making money, when they tried, as many of them did, to get rich quickly in mean ways. Sorry to tell, the imp found a good many promising specimens to work upon, at his business of making some wise men foolish. He taught them to take out of their souls what they hoarded away. To such fellows, when they became misers, he gave the name of "Schim," which means a shadow. It was believed by some people that such shrivelled up wretches had no bowels.

Soon after this, a great meeting of kabouters was held, in the dark realms below ground. Each one told what he had been doing on the earth. After the little imps had reported, the chief kabouter, when his turn came, cried out:

"I shall tell of three brothers, and what each one did with the first silver penny he earned."

"Go on," they all cried.

"I've caught one schim young. He married a wife only last year, but he won't give her one gulden a year to dress on.

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