What the Old Man Does is Always Right- Pre-Intermediate Level
I will tell you a story that was told to me when I was a little boy. Every time I think of this story, I like it more and more. Stories are like many people; they seem to become better as they grow older.
I am sure that you have been in the country and seen a very old farmhouse. It has a straw roof with small plants growing wild upon it. There is a bird’s nest on top of the roof at one end, for we cannot do without a birds nest. The walls of the house are not straight, and only one of the low windows is made so that it can open. A large tree hangs over the fence. There is a pool of water under the tree in which a few ducks are entertaining themselves. There is a dog, too, which barks at all who come.
A farmhouse just like this once stood by a small country road. In it lived an old man and his wife. They were very poor, but had one thing of value. That was a horse, which was able to live on the small amount of grass by the side of the road. The old man rode the horse into the town, and his neighbors often borrowed it from him. They would pay for using the horse by doing work for the old man or woman or giving them things. After a time, the old man thought it might be time to sell the horse, or trade it for something more useful. But what could this something be?
“You’ll know best, old man,” said the wife. “It is fair day in town today. Why don’t you ride in and see what you can get for the horse? Whatever you do will be fine by me.”
She tied his tie for him, for she could do that better than he could, then she smoothed his hat and gave him a kiss. He rode away on the horse that was to be sold or traded for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about. The sun shone brightly, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty because many people, all going to the fair, were driving, riding, or walking upon it. There was nowhere to stop to get out of the hot sun. Among the people on the road was a man walking slowly, driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful an animal as any cow could be.
“She gives good milk, I am certain,” said the old man to himself. “That would be a very good trade: the cow for the horse.”
“Hello there!” he called to the man with the cow. “I know that I can sell this horse and get more money for it than you can for your cow. But I don’t care. A cow will be more useful to me. So, if you like, we can trade.”
“I would be happy to,” said the man.
The trade was made and, as the old man’s business was done, he could have returned home. But, having made up his mind to go to the fair, he decided to continue on to have a look. So on he went towards the town with his cow. After a short time, he found himself walking past a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep, with fine wool on its back.
“I should like to have that sheep,” said the old man to himself. “There is more than enough grass for him by our fence, and in the winter we could keep him in the house with us. Perhaps we can make more money by having a sheep than a cow. Shall I trade?”
The man with the sheep was quite ready, and quickly quickly agreed. The old man then continued on the road with his sheep. Soon after this, he came upon another man who had come onto the road from a field. He was carrying a large goose under his arm.
“What a fine goose that is,” said the old man to himself. “It has lots of feathers and is very fat fat. It would look very good tied to a string, or swimming in the water under our tree. That would be very useful to my old woman. She could make all sorts of money from it. I have heard her say many times: ‘If we only had a goose!’ Here is a way for me to get one for her. Shall I trade?”
“I will give you my sheep for your goose,” he said to the other man, who was very happy to make the trade. And so the old man became the owner of a fine fat goose. By this time he was very near the town. There were more and more people on the road, and quite a lot of cattle. Many of the cattle walked along the side of the road eating grass. At the town gate, they even walked into the potato field owned by the gate-keeper.
A large hen with beautiful feathers was walking about near the gate. It had a string tied to its leg so that it would not be frightened and run away. The old man thought that it looked very clever as it walked around opening and closing its eyes and saying: “cluck, cluck.” I cannot tell you the thoughts of the hen as it did this. However, as soon as our good man saw it he said to himself, “Why, that’s the finest hen I have ever seen in my life! I should like to have it. Hens can always find some food as they walk about in the garden, and almost keep themselves. I think it would be a good trade if I could get it for my goose. Shall I trade?”
“Would you take my goose for your hen?” he asked the gate-keeper.
“Well, that would not be a bad thing,” said the man, and the trade was made. The gate-keeper kept the goose, and the old man carried off the hen.
The old man had worked very hard with all his trading on the way town. He was hot and tired, and stopped at an inn to have something to eat and a glass of beer before continuing on to the fair. He was just about to enter when a man came out of the door carrying a large bag. “What do you have in that bag?” asked the old man.
“Rotten apples,” answered the man. “A whole bag full of them. They are too old to eat, but will be good to feed my pigs with.”
“Why that will be a silly thing to do,” said the old man. “Last year our apple tree bore only one apple. We kept it in the cupboard until it rotted and then dried-up. ‘It is now something that we can always keep,’ my old woman said. And in your bag she would see many things that we can always keep. I should like to take it home and show them to her.”
“What will you give me for the bag?” asked the man.
“What will I give? Well, I could give you my hen.”
So the old man gave up the hen and took the bag of rotten apples. He carried it into the inn. There were many people inside. Among them were two English travelers who were very rich and had pockets full of money. They liked to bet, as you shall hear.
The old man put the bag down on the floor near the stove and sat at the table next to the Englishmen. He did not know that the stove was hot, and soon the people at the table heard a strange sound: “SSSSS, SSSSSS.” The apples were beginning to cook.
“What is that?” asked one of the Englishmen.
“Why, its my apples,” said the old man. And then he told them the whole story of the horse, which he had traded for a cow, and all the rest of it, down to the apples.
“Well, your old woman will certainly be angry with you when you get home,” said the other Englishman.
“What! Be angry with me?” said the old man. “Why, she will kiss me and say: ‘What the old man does is always right.'”
“Let us bet on that,” said the first Englishman. “We’ll bet you a thousand gold coins that she won’t do as you say.”
“No, just a bag of gold will be enough,” answered the old man. “You see, I have only one bag of apples to bet against it.”
“Done! Agreed!” said the Englishman. And so the bet was made.
Soon the inn keeper’s carriage was brought to the door, and the two Englishmen and the old man got in and drove away. It wasn’t long before they stopped at the old man’s house.
“Good evening, old woman,” said the old man. “I’ve made the trade.”
“Good evening, old man. I am sure that you did well,” she said as she hugged him. But she said nothing to the two strangers and did not notice the bag.
“I got a cow for the horse.”
“Thank God!” she said. “Now we shall have a lot of milk, and butter, and cheese on the table. That was a very good trade.”
“Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep.”
“Ah, better still!” cried the wife. “You always think of everything. We have just enough grass for a sheep. Sheep’s milk and cheese, woollen jackets and socks! The cow could not give all these, and her hair only falls off. I love how you think of everything!”
“But I gave away the sheep for a goose.”
“Then we shall have roast goose to eat this year. You dear old man, you are always trying to please me. This is wonderful. We can let the goose walk about with a string tied to her leg, so she will be fatter still before we roast her.”
“But I traded the goose for a hen.”
“A hen! Well, that was a good idea,” said the woman. “The hen will lay eggs and soon we shall have many chickens to sell and eat. Oh, this is just what I was wishing for.”
“Yes, but I gave the hen to a man for a bag of rotten apples.”
“What? I really must give you a kiss for that!” cried the wife. “My dear husband, now I’ll tell you something. Do you know what I did as soon as you left me this morning? I began to think of what I could give you that would be good for dinner this evening. Then I thought of fried eggs and bacon, with some nice herbs. I had eggs and bacon, but no herbs. So I went over to the school teacher’s house. He has many herbs in his garden. However, although his wife can smile sweetly, she is very mean. I asked if she could lend me a handful of herbs. ‘Lend!’ she cried, ‘I have nothing to lend! Nothing at all grows in our garden, not even a dried-up apple. I could not even lend you one dried-up apple.’ But now, dear husband, I can lend her ten dried-up apples. Or even a whole bag of them! It makes me laugh to think about it. Thank you old man, you have made me very happy.” Then she gave him a big kiss and said lovingly, “What the old man does is always right.”
“Well, I like this,” said one of the Englishmen. “No matter what happens, always happy!”
“Whatever he did,” said the other, “never in trouble from his wife but kissed. I am pleased to pay a bag of gold to have seen it.”
This is a story which I heard when I was a child. Now you have heard it too and know that “What the old man does is always right.”