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The Hunter and his Wife


"You lie, you old witch," says the hunter; "you gave it nothing but a burnt crust, and you beat it with the poker."

The old woman was so surprised that she let the truth out of her mouth before she knew. She says to her husband, "How on earth did you know all that?"

"I won't tell you," says the hunter.

"Tell me, tell me," begs the old woman, just like Maroosia when she wants to know too much.

"I can't tell you," says the hunter; "it's forbidden me to tell."

"Tell me, dear one," says she.

"Truly, I can't."

"Tell me, my little pigeon."

"If I tell you I shall die the death."

"Rubbish, my dearest; only tell me."

"But I shall die."

"Just tell me that one little thing. You won't die for that."

And so she bothered him and bothered him, until he thought, "There's nothing to be done if a woman sets her mind on a thing. I'd better die and get it over at once."

So he put on a clean white shirt, and lay down on the bench in the corner, under the sacred images, and made all ready for his death; and was just going to tell his wife the whole truth about the snake and the wood-pile, and how he knew the language of all living things. But just then there was a great clucking in the yard, and some of the hens ran into the cottage, and after them came the cock, scolding first one and then another, and boasting,—

"That's the way to deal with you," says the cock; and the hunter, lying there in his white shirt, ready to die, heard and understood every word, "Yes," says the cock, as he drove the hens about the room, "you see I am not such a fool as our master here, who does not know how to keep a single wife in order. Why, I have thirty of you and more, and the whole lot hear from me sharp enough if they do not do as I say."

As soon as the hunter heard this he made up his mind to be a fool no longer. He jumped up from the bench, and took his whip and gave his wife such a beating that she never asked him another question to this day. And she has never yet learnt how it was that he knew what she did in the hut while he was away in the forest.

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