Clever Gre­tel

The Borneo Post - Good English - - Short Story Section - by Broth­ers Grimm

THERE was once a cook named Gre­tel, who wore shoes with red heels, and when she walked out with them on, she turned her­self this way and that, was quite happy and thought: ‘You cer­tainly are a pretty girl!’ And when she came home she drank, in her glad­ness of heart, a draught of wine, and as wine ex­cites a de­sire to eat, she tasted the best of what­ever she was cook­ing un­til she was sat­is­fied, and said: ‘The cook must know what the food is like.’

It came to pass that the mas­ter one day said to her: ‘Gre­tel, there is a guest com­ing this evening; pre­pare me two fowls very dain­tily.’

‘I will see to it, mas­ter,’ an­swered Gre­tel.

She killed two fowls, scalded them, plucked them, put them on the spit, and to­wards evening set them be­fore the fire, that they might roast. The fowls be­gan to turn brown, and were nearly ready, but the guest had not yet ar­rived.

Then Gre­tel called out to her mas­ter:

‘If the guest does not come, I must take the fowls away from the fire, but it will be a sin and a shame if they are not eaten the mo­ment they are at their juici­est.’

The mas­ter said:

‘I will run my­self, and fetch the guest.’

When the mas­ter had turned his back, Gre­tel laid the spit with the fowls on one side, and thought: ‘Stand­ing so long by the fire there, makes one sweat and thirsty; who knows when they will come? Mean­while, I will run into the cel­lar, and take a drink.’ She ran down, set a jug, said: ‘God bless it for you, Gre­tel,’ and took a good drink, and thought that wine should flow on, and should not be in­ter­rupted, and took yet an­other hearty draught.

Then she went and put the fowls down again to the fire, basted them, and drove the spit mer­rily round. But as the roast meat smelt so good, Gre­tel thought: ‘Some­thing might be wrong, it ought to be tasted!’ She touched it with her fin­ger, and said: ‘Ah! how good fowls are! It cer­tainly is a sin and a shame that they are not eaten at the right time!’

She ran to the win­dow, to see if the mas­ter was not com­ing with his guest, but she saw no one, and went back to the fowls and thought: ‘One of the wings is burn­ing! I had bet­ter take it off and eat it.’ So she cut it off, ate it, and en­joyed it, and when she had done, she thought: ‘The other must go down too, or else mas­ter will observe that some­thing is miss­ing.’

When the two wings were eaten, she went and looked for her mas­ter, and did not see him. It sud­denly oc­curred to her: ‘Who knows? They are per­haps not com­ing at all, and have turned in some­where.’ Then she said: ‘Well, Gre­tel, en­joy your­self, one fowl has been cut into, take an­other drink, and eat it up en­tirely; when it is eaten you will have some peace, why should God’s good gifts be spoilt?’

So she ran into the cel­lar again, took an enor­mous drink and ate up the one chicken in great glee. When one of the chick­ens was swal­lowed down, and still her mas­ter did not come, Gre­tel looked at the other and said: ‘What one is, the other should be like­wise, the two go to­gether; what’s right for the one is right for the other; I think if I were to take an­other draught it would do me no harm.’ So she took an­other hearty drink, and let the sec­ond chicken fol­low the first.

While she was mak­ing the most of it, her mas­ter came and cried:

‘Hurry up, Gre­tel, the guest is com­ing di­rectly af­ter me!’

‘Yes, sir, I will soon serve up,’ an­swered Gre­tel.

Mean­time the mas­ter looked to see that the ta­ble was prop­erly laid, and took the great knife, where­with he was go­ing to carve the chick­ens, and sharp­ened it on the steps. Presently the guest came, and knocked po­litely and cour­te­ously at the house-door. Gre­tel ran, and looked to see who was there, and when she saw the guest, she put her fin­ger to her lips and said:

‘Hush! hush! go away as quickly as you can, if my mas­ter catches you it will be the worse for you; he cer­tainly did ask you to supper, but his in­ten­tion is to cut off your two ears. Just lis­ten how he is sharp­en­ing the knife for it!’

The guest heard the sharp­en­ing, and hur­ried down the steps again as fast as he could. Gre­tel was not idle; she ran scream­ing to her mas­ter, and cried:

‘You have in­vited a fine guest!’

‘Why, Gre­tel? What do you mean by that?’

‘Yes,’ said she, ‘he has taken the chick­ens which I was just go­ing to serve up, off the dish, and has run away with them!’

‘That’s a nice trick!’ said her mas­ter, and lamented the fine chick­ens. ‘If he had but left me one, so that some­thing re­mained for me to eat.’ He called to him to stop, but the guest pre­tended not to hear.

Then he ran af­ter him with the knife still in his hand, cry­ing: ‘Just one, just one,’ mean­ing that the guest should leave him just one chicken, and not take both. The guest, how­ever, thought no oth­er­wise than that he was to give up one of his ears, and ran as if fire were burn­ing un­der him, in or­der to take them both with him.

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