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Main > English folktales > Fairy tale "Coat o' Clay"

Coat o' Clay

By-and-by he fell asleep, and before he knew what he was about—plump—he rolled off into the river with a splash, and scrambled out, dripping like a drowned rat.

"Dear, dear," said he, "I'd better go and get dry in the sun." So up he went to the highroad, and lay down in the dust, rolling about so that the sun should get at him all over.

Presently, when he sat up and looked down at himself, he found that the dust had caked into a sort of skin over his wet clothes till you could not see an inch of them, they were so well covered. "Hi, yi!" said he, "here's a coat o' clay ready made, and a fine one. See now, I'm a clever fellow this time sure-ly, for I've found what I wanted without looking for it! Wow, but it's a fine feeling to be so smart!"

And he sat and scratched his head, and thought about his own cleverness.

But all of a sudden, round the corner came the squire on horseback, full gallop, as if the boggles were after him; but the fool had to jump, even though the squire pulled his horse back on his haunches.

"What the dickens," said the squire, "do you mean by lying in the middle of the road like that?"

"Well, master," said the fool, "I fell into the water and got wet, so I lay down in the road to get dry; and I lay down a fool an' got up a wise man."

"How's that?" said the squire.

So the fool told him about the wise woman and the coat o' clay.

"Ah, ah!" laughed the squire, "whoever heard of a wise man lying in the middle of the highroad to be ridden over? Lad, take my word for it, you are a bigger fool than ever," and he rode on laughing.

"Dang it!" said the fool, as he scratched his head. "I've not got the right sort of coat yet, then." And he choked and spluttered in the dust that the squire's horse had raised.

So on he went in a melancholy mood till he came to an inn, and the landlord at his door smoking.

"Well, fool," said he, "thou 'rt fine and dirty."

"Ay," said the fool, "I be dirty outside an' dusty in, but it's not the right thing yet."

And he told the landlord all about the wise woman and the coat o' clay.

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