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Main > German folktales > Fairy tale "The Sturgeon"

The Sturgeon

Let us begin."

The covers were removed in a twinkling by the servitors, the carvers clattered their knives and forks impatiently; but what was the surprise of all, when every dish as it was uncovered was found to be empty. The wrath of the abbess rose at the sight, and the zeal of the nuns knew no bounds in seconding her indignation. The cook was hurriedly sent for. He stood before the excited sisterhood an abject, trembling wretch, far more like one who expected to be made a victim of himself, than one who would voluntarily make victims of others.

"How is this, villain?" exclaimed the abbess, her face reddening with rage.

"How's this, villain?" echoed threescore female voices, some of them not musical.

"Ay, how is this, hound?" growled the purveyor.

"Do you mock us?" continued the abbess, as the cook stood trembling and silent.

"Do you mock us?" echoed the purveyor, with as much dignity as he could impart into his thin, meagre figure.

"Speak!" said the abbess in a loud voice, while the cook cast his eyes around as if seeking aid against the excited throng the room contained,—"speak!"

Thus urged, the cook proceeded to explain—as far, at least, as he was able. He declared that he had cut up and cooked the sturgeon, according to the directions he had received from the purveyor, and that, when dinner was served up, he had sent them up dressed in the manner that official had directed.

The abbess and her nuns were much puzzled how to explain this extraordinary occurrence, and each busied herself in conjectures which, as usual in such cases, never approached the fact. At this juncture the aged fisherman entered the room.

"My lady," he said to the abbess, when he learnt what had occurred, "it is the judgment of Heaven. Even now I saw the fish in the river. I knew them well, and I'll swear to them if necessary. They floated away, swimming down the stream, and I am a much mistaken man if ever ye see them any more."

The pleasurable anticipations of the day that the sisters had entertained were completely annihilated; but it would have been well for them if the consequences of their avarice and gluttony had ended with that hour.

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