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Main > Scandinavian folktales > Fairy tale "The little glass shoe"

The little glass shoe

John was now insatiable in ploughing. Every morning he was out before sunrise, and many a time he ploughed on till after midnight. Summer and winter it was plough, plough with him ever-more, except when the ground was frozen as hard as a stone. He always ploughed by himself, and never suffered any one to go out with him, or to come to him when he was at work, for John understood too well the nature of his crop to let people see for what it was he ploughed so constantly.

However, it fared far worse with him than with his horses, who ate good oats, and were regularly changed and relieved, for he grew pale and meagre by reason of his continual working and toiling. His wife and children had no longer any comfort for him. He never went to the ale-house or to the club. He withdrew himself from every one, and scarcely ever spoke a single word, but went about silent and wrapped up in his own thoughts. All the day long he toiled for his ducats, and at night he had to count them, and to plan and meditate how he might find out a still swifter kind of plough.

His wife and the neighbours lamented over his strange conduct, his dulness and melancholy, and began to think he was grown foolish. Everybody pitied his wife and children, for they imagined the numerous horses that he kept in his stable, and the preposterous mode of agriculture he pursued, with his unnecessary and superfluous ploughing, must soon leave him without house or land.

Their anticipations, however, were not fulfilled. True it is, the poor man never enjoyed a happy or contented hour since he began to plough the ducats up out of the ground. The old saying held good in his case, that he who gives himself up to the pursuit of gold is half-way in the claws of the evil one. Flesh and blood cannot bear perpetual labour, and John Wilde did not long hold out against his running through the furrows day and night. He got through the first spring; but one day in the second he dropped down at the tail of the plough like an exhausted November fly.

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