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JACK THE DULLARD

 

OUT in the country lay an old mansionand in it lived an old proprietorwho had two sonswhich two young men thought themselves too clever by halfThey wanted to go out and woo the King's daughterfor the maiden in question had publicly announced that she would choose for her husband that one that she thought could best speak for himself

So these two prepared themselves a full week for the wooingthis was the longest time that could be granted themBut it was enoughfor they had previous accomplishmentsand these are usefulOne of them knew the whole Latin dictionary by heartand three whole years of the daily paper of the little townand that either backwards or forwardsThe other was deeply read in the corporation lawsand knew by heart at every alderman ought to knowand accordingly he thought he could talk of affairs of stateAnd he knew one thing morehe could embroider bracesfor he was a tastylight-fingered fellow

I shall win the Princess!”So cried both of themTherefore their father gave to each a handsome horseThe youth who knew the dictionary and newspaper by heart had a black horseand he who knew all about the corporation laws received a milk-white steedThen they rubbed the corners of their mouths with fish-oilso that they might be-come very smooth and glibAll the servants stood below in the courtyardand looked on while they mounted their horsesand just by chance the third son came upFor there were three of themthough nobody counted the third with his brothersbecause he was not so learned as theyand indeed he was generally known asJack the Dullard”.

Hello!”said he,“where are you going since you have put on your best clothes

We're going to the King's courtas suitors to the King's daughterDon't you know the announcement that has been made all through the country?”And they told him all about it

My wordI'll be in it too!”cried Jack the Dullardand his two brothers burst out laughing at himand rode away

Father,”said Jack,“I must have a horse tooI do feel so desperately inclined to marryIf she accepts meshe accepts meand if she won't have meI'll have her all the same!”

Don't talk nonsense,”said the father.“You shall have no horse from meYou don't know how to speakYour brothers are very different fellows from you.”

Well,”quoth Jack the Dullard,“if I can't have a horseI'll take the billy-goatwho belongs to meand he can carry me very well!”

And so he mounted the billy-goatpressed his heels into its sidesand gallopped off along the highway

Heihoupthat was a rideHere I come!”shouted Jack the Dullardand he sang till his voice echoed far and wide

But his brothers rode slowly on in advance of himThey spoke not a wordfor they were thinking all about the fine ideas they would have to bring outand these had to be cleverly prepared beforehand

Hello!”shouted Jack the Dullard.“Here am ILook what I have found on the high road.”And he showed them a dead crow which he had found

Dullard!”exclaimed the brothers,“what are you going to do with that?”

I am going to give it to the Princess.”

Yesdo so,”said theyand they laughedand rode on

Hellohere I am againJust see what I have found nowyou don't find that on the high road every day!”

And the brothers turned round to see what he could have found now

Dullard!”they cried,“that is only an old wooden shoeand the upper part is missing into the bargainare you going to give that also to the Princess?”

Most certainly I shall,”replied Jack the Dullardand again the brothers laughed and rode onand thus they got far in advance of himbut

Hello!”and there was Jack the Dullard again.“It is getting better and better,”he cried.“Hurrahit is quite famous.”

Whywhat have you found this time?”inquired the brothers

Oh,”said Jack the Dullard,“I can hardly tell youHow glad the Princess will be!”

Bah!”said the brothers,“that is nothing but clay out of the ditch.”

Yescertainly it is,”said Jack the Dullard;“and clay of the finest sortSeeit is so wetit runs through one's fingers.”And he filled his pocket with the clay

But his brothers gallopped on as hard as the harness could standand consequently they arrived a full hour earlier at the town gate than could JackNow at the gate each suitor was provided with a numberand all were placed in rowssix in each rowand so closely packed together that they could not move their armsand that was a prudent arrangementfor they would certainly have come to blowshad they been ablemerely because one of them stood be-fore the other

All the inhabitants of the country round about stood in great crowds around the castlealmost under the very windowsto see the Princess receive the suitorsand as each stepped into the hallhis power of speech seemed to desert himThen the Princess would say,“He is of no useAway with him!”

At last the turn came for that brother who knew the dictionary by heartbut he had absolutely forgotten itand the boards seemed to re-echo with his footstepsand the ceiling of the hall was made of looking-glassso that he saw himself standing on his headand at the window stood three clerks and a head clerkand every one of them was writing down every single word that was utteredso that it might be printed in the newspapersand sold for a penny at the street cornersIt was a terrible ordealand they had moreover made such a fire in the stovethat the stove-pipe was quite red hot

It is dreadfully hot here!”observed the first brother

Yes,”replied the Princess,“my father is going to roast young pullets today.”

Baathere he stoodHe had not been prepared for a speech of this kindand had not a word to saythough he intended to say something wittyBaa

He is of no use!”said the Princess.“Away with him!”

And he was obliged to go accordinglyAnd now the second brother came in

It is terribly warm here!”he observed

Yeswe're roasting pullets today,”replied the Princess

Whatwhat were youwere you pleased to Bo—”stammered heand all the clerks wrote down,“pleased to Bo—”

He is of no use!”said the Princess.“Away with him!”

Now came the turn of Jack the DullardHe rode in-to the hall on his goat

Wellit's most desperately hot here.”

Yesbecause I'm roasting young pullets,”replied the Princess

Ahthat's lucky!”exclaimed Jack the Dullard,“then I suppose I can get a crow roasted?”

With the greatest pleasure,”said the PrincessBut have you anything you can roast it inFor I have neither pot nor pan.”

Certainly I have!”said Jack.“Here's a cooking utensil with a tin handle.”

And he brought out the old wooden shoeand put the crow into it

Wellthat is a famous dish!”said the Princess.“But what shall we do for sauce?”

OhI have that in my pocket,”said Jack:“I have so much of it that I can afford to throw some away.”And he poured some of the clay out of his pocket

I like that!”said the Princess.“You can give an answerand you have something to say for yourselfand so you shall be my husbandBut are you aware that every word we speak is being taken downand will be pub-lished in the paper tomorrowYou will see in every win-dow three clerks and a head clerkand the old head clerk is the worst of allfor he can't understand anything.”

But she only said this to frighten himand the clerks gave a great shout of delightand each one spurted a blot out of his pen onto the floor

Ohthose are the gentlemenare they?”said Jack;“then I will give the best I have to the head clerk.”And he turned out his pocketsand flung the wet clay full in the head clerk's face

That was very cleverly done,”observed the Princess.“I could not have done thatbut I shall learn in time.”

And accordingly Jack the Dullard was made a kingand received a crown and a wifeand sat upon a throneAnd this report we have straight from the newspaper of the head clerkbut it is not to be depended upon

 


 

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