There was an old soldier who had been long in the wars—so long, that he was quite out-at-elbows, and he did not know where to go to find a living. So he walked up moors, down glens, till at last he came to a farm, from which the good man had gone away to market. The wife of the farmer was a very foolish woman, who had been a widow when he married her; the farmer was foolish enough, too, and it is hard to say which of the two was the more foolish. When you've heard my tale you may decide.
Now before the farmer goes to market says he to his wife: "Here is ten pounds all in gold, take care of it till I come home." If the man had not been a fool he would never have given the money to his wife to keep. Well, off he went in his cart to market, and the wife said to herself: "I will keep the ten pounds quite safe from thieves;" so she tied it up in a rag, and she put the rag up the parlour chimney.
"There," said she, "no thieves will ever find it now, that is quite sure."
Jack Hannaford, the old soldier, came and rapped at the door.
"Who is there?" asked the wife.
"Where do you come from?"
"Lord a' mercy! and maybe you've seen my old man there," alluding to her former husband.
"Yes, I have."
"And how was he a-doing?" asked the goody.
"But middling; he cobbles old shoes, and he has nothing but cabbage for victuals."
"Deary me!" exclaimed the woman. "Didn't he send a message to me?"
"Yes, he did," replied Jack Hannaford. "He said that he was out of leather, and his pockets were empty, so you were to send him a few shillings to buy a fresh stock of leather."
"He shall have them, bless his poor soul!" And away went the wife to the parlour chimney, and she pulled the rag with the ten pounds in it from the chimney, and she gave the whole sum to the soldier, telling him that her old man was to use as much as he wanted, and to send back the rest.
It was not long that Jack waited after receiving the money; he went off as fast as he could walk.
The Girl with the Horse's Head or the Silkworm Goddess
Category: Chinese folktales
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