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Chicken Grethe's Family

He gave her harsh words, but he did give her a bedroom. She got her beer broth for breakfast, but no good words to go with it. Her father's bad temper had turned against her, and she was not used to it. Her own temper was by no means mild. As one is spoken to, so one answers, and answer she did. Of her husband she spoke with bitterness and hatred. She declared that she could not live with him; she was too honorable and virtuous for that.

In this fashion a year went by, most unpleasantly. Bitter words passed between father and daughter. That should not be. Bitter words bear bitter fruit. What would be the outcome?

One day her father said, "We cannot live under the same roof. You must move to our old castle. I would rather you bit off your tongue than spoke lies."

So they parted. With her maid, she went to the old estate where she was born and bred, and where her mother, that pious gentlewoman, lay in the churchyard vault.

An old cowherd lived in the castle, and that was all. Cobwebs, heavy and black with dirt, draped every room. The garden was not taken care of. Wild hops and other climbing vines wove a tangled web between trees and shrubbery. Hemlock and nettles grew tall and rank. The blood beech had been outgrown, and in the deep shade its leaves had turned as green as those of ordinary trees. Its glory was gone.

Rooks, crows, and jackdaws flew in enormous flocks above the tall chestnuts. They shrieked and cawed as if they had great news to tell each other. Here she was again, the girl who ordered their eggs and babies to be stolen from their nests. The real thief, the one who had actually stolen them, was now climbing a leafless tree. He clung to the tall ship's mast, and got his share of lashes with a rope's end if he didn't behave himself.

All this was told in our own time by the parish clerk. He had pieced it together from books and letters, and it lay with many another manuscript hidden away in his table drawer. "Up and down is the way the world goes," said he.

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