Wise Folks – Pre-Intermediate Story
One day a poor farmer named Hans took his good walking stick out of the corner of their living room. “Trina,” he said to his wife, “I am going to see some friends across country and shall not return for three days. If a cattle buyer should happen to come by when I am gone, show him our three cows. You may sell them to him. But not unless you can get two hundred pounds for all three. Nothing less, do you hear?”
“Go in peace Hans,” answered the woman. “I can manage that easily.”
“I am not so sure,” said Hans. “You once fell on your head when you were a little child and this causes problems for you even now. Let me tell you this. If you do anything foolish, I will make your back black and blue. Not with paint, I promise you, but with the stick which I have in my hand. And the coloring shall last a whole year, you may be sure of that.” Having said this, the farmer went on his way.
The next morning a cattle buyer came, and the woman had no need to say many words to him. When he saw the cows and heard the price, he said, “I am quite willing to give that. Honestly speaking, it is a fair price. I will take them away with me at once.” He untied their ropes and began to take the three cows out of the stable.
Just as he was going out of the door, the woman stopped him. “You must give me the two hundred pounds first,” she said, “or I cannot let you take them.”
“I understand,” answered the man. “But I have forgotten to bring my money belt. Do not worry, however. I will leave something with you so that you can be sure I will come back and pay. I will take two cows with me and leave one. Then you will know that I will have to come with the money in order to get the third.”
The woman saw the truth of this, and let the man go away with two cows. “Hans will be very pleased when he sees how cleverly I have managed this,” she thought to herself.
Hans came home on the third day as he had said he would, and at once asked his wife if the cows had been sold.
“Yes, they certainly have, dear Hans,” answered the woman. “And as you said, for two hundred pounds. They were thin and I thought the buyer would not pay so much. But he took them and seemed to think that two hundred pounds was a good price.”
“Where is the money?” asked the farmer.
“Oh, I have not got the money yet,” answered the woman. “The buyer had happened to forget his money belt. But he will soon bring it, for he left something of value so that we can be sure he will come back.”
“What did he leave?” asked the farmer.
“One of the cows, which he shall not have until he has paid for all three. I have managed it very cleverly, for I have kept the smallest, which eats the least.”
The farmer was very angry. He lifted up his stick and was about to give her the beating he had promised her. Suddenly he lowered the stick. “I think you are the stupidest woman that ever walked on God’s earth,” he said, “but I feel sorry for you. I will go out onto the great highway and wait for three days to see if anyone comes by who is even more stupid than you. If I find someone, I will do nothing. But if I do not find someone, you shall receive the beating just as I promised.”
He went out onto the highway, sat down on a stone, and waited. Soon he saw a farm wagon coming towards him. The woman driving it was not sitting on the seat as normal people do, but standing up in the middle. “This may well be one of the people I am in search of,” thought the farmer. He jumped up and ran this way and that in front of the wagon like someone who did not know where he was or what was happening to him.
“What do you want, my friend?” said the woman. “I don’t know you, where do you come from?”
“I have fallen down from heaven,” answered the farmer, “and don’t know how to get back again. Could you drive me up in your wagon?”
“No,” said the woman, “I don’t know the way. But if you do come from Heaven you can surely tell me how my husband is. He has been there for three years now. You must have seen him.”
“Oh, yes, I have seen him, but all men don’t get on well in Heaven. His job is to take care of the sheep, and the sheep give him a lot of trouble. They run up the mountains, and lose their way in the wild country. He has to run after them and bring them back each day. His clothes are all torn to pieces also, and will soon fall off his body. There is no tailor in Heaven, for the man at the gate won’t let any of them in, as you know by the old story.”
“Who would have thought it?” cried the woman. “I tell you what, I will go and get his Sunday coat which is still hanging at home in the cupboard. He can wear that to work and look good at the same time. Would you be so kind as to take it with you?”
“That won’t do very well at all,” answered the farmer. “People are not allowed to take clothes into Heaven. They are taken away from you at the gate.”
“Then listen,” said the woman. “I sold some fine wheat yesterday and got a good price for it. I will send that money to him. If you hide the purse in your pocket, no one will know that you have it.”
“If you can’t manage it any other way,” said the farmer, “I will do that for you as a favor.”
“Just sit here where you are,” said the woman, “and I will go home and get the purse. I shall soon be back again. As you can see, I do not sit down on the wagon seat. I stand up because it makes the wagon lighter so the horses can go faster.”
As she drove the wagon away, the farmer thought to himself, “that woman has to be one of the most foolish people in the world. If she really brings the money back, my wife may think herself very lucky for she will not get a beating this time.”
It was not long before the woman came back with the money in a great hurry. She put it in the farmer’s pocket with her own hands, while thanking again a thousand times for his kindness.
When the woman got home again, she found her son who had come in from the fields. She told him what had happened. “I am very happy to have found a way to send something to your poor father,” she added. “Who would ever have thought that he could be in need of anything up in Heaven?”
The son was full of wonder. “Mother,” he said, “it is not every day that a man comes from Heaven in this way. I will go out this very minute and see if I can find him. I want to know what it is like up there, and how the work is done.” He then ran outside, got on his horse, and rode off as fast as he could.
He soon found the farmer who was sitting under a tree about to count the money. “Have you seen the man who has fallen down from Heaven?” cried the young man to him.
“Yes,” answered the farmer. “He has set out on his way home. I saw him go up that high hill, from where he will be closer to Heaven. You could still catch up with him, if you were to ride very fast.”
“I have been working hard all day and the ride here has made me so tired that I can’t go on,” said the young man sadly. “You know the man. Would you be so kind as to take my horse and see if he would come back here for a short time? I have some important questions I want to ask him.”
“Aha!” thought the farmer, “here is another who is more stupid than my wife.”
“I would be happy to do that for you,” he said. He then got on the horse and rode quickly away.
The young man remained sitting there until it was dark, but the farmer never came back. “The man from Heaven must have been in a great hurry and could not turn back,” he thought. “And the other man must have given him the horse to take to my father.” He went home and told his mother what had happened, and how he had sent their horse to his father so that he might not have to be always running about in Heaven.
“You have done well,” said his mother. “Your legs are younger than his, and you can more easily go around on foot.”
When the farmer got home, he put the horse in the stable beside the cow which had been left by the cattle buyer, and then went to his wife. “Trina,” he said, “as your luck would have it, I have found two people who are more foolish than you. This time you escape without a beating. I will store it up for another time.”
Then he lighted his pipe and sat down happily in his grandfather’s chair. “It was a good piece of business to get a fine looking horse and a purse full of money for two thin cows,” he thought. “If stupidity always brought in as much as that, I would be quite willing to hold simple people in a place of honor.”
This is what the farmer thought, but I am sure that you like the simple people best anyway.