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Wonder Stories Told for Children by  Hans Christian Andersen
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JACK THE DULLARD

[65]

F
AR in the interior of the country lay an old baronial hall, and in it lived an old proprietor, who had two sons, which two young men thought themselves too clever by half. The wanted to go out and woo the King's daughter; for she had publicly announced that she would choose for her husband that youth who could arrange his words best.

The two geniuses prepared themselves for eight days before-hand—this was the longest time that could be granted them; but it was enough, for they had had much preparatory information, and everybody knows how useful that is. One of them knew the whole Latin dictionary by heart, and the City Advertiser three years; and so well, that he could say it all either backwards or forwards. The other was deeply read in the corporation laws, and knew by heart what every corporation ought to know; and, accordingly, he thought he could talk of affairs of state, and put his spoke in the wheel in the council. And he knew one thing more; he could embroider braces with roses and other flowers, and with arabesques, for he was a tasty, light-fingered fellow.

"I shall win the Princess!" So cried both of them. Their old papa gave to each a handsome horse. The youth who knew the dictionary and newspaper by heart had a black horse, and he who knew all about the corporation laws received a milk-white steed. Then they rubbed the corners of their mouths with fish oil, so that they might become very smooth and glib. All the servants stood below in the courtyard, and looked on while they mounted their horses; and just by chance the third son came up; for there were three sons, but nobody counted the third with his brothers because he was not so learned as they, and indeed he was generally known as "Jack the Dullard."

"Hallo!" said Jack the Dullard, "where are you going there in your Sunday clothes?"

We're going to the King's court, as suitors to the King's [66] daughter. Don't you know the announcement that has been made all through the country?" And they told him all about it.

"My word! I'll be in it too!" said Jack the Dullard; and his two brothers burst out laughing at him and rode away.

"Father," said Jack, "I must have a horse too. I do feel so desperately inclined to marry! If she accepts me, she accepts me; and if she won't have me, I'll have her; but she shall be mine!"

"Don't talk nonsense," replied the father. "You shall have no horse from me. You don't know how to speak—you can't arrange your words. Your brothers, now, they are statesmen."

"Well," quoth Jack the Dullard, "if I can't have a horse, I'll take the billy-goat, who belongs to me, and he can carry me very well!"

And so said, so done. He mounted the billy-goat, pressed his heels into its sides, and galloped down the high streets like a hurricane.

"Hei, houp! that was a ride! Here I come!" shouted Jack the Dullard, and he sang till his voice echoed far and wide.

But his brothers rode slowly on in advance of him. They spoke not a word, for they were thinking about the fine extempore speeches they would have to bring out, and these had to be cleverly prepared and learned beforehand.

"Hallo!" shouted Jack the Dullard. "Here am I! Look what I have found on the high road."

And he showed them what it was, and it was a dead crow.

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

"With the crow? why, I am going to give it to the Princess."

"Yes, do so," said they; and they laughed, and rode on.

"Hallo, here I am again! Just see what I have found now; you don't find that on the high road every day!"

And the brothers turned round to see what he could have

[67] "Dullard!" they cried, "that is only an old woman's shoe, and the upper part is missing into the bargain; are you going to give that also to the Princess?"

"Most certainly I shall," replied Jack the Dullard; and again the brothers laughed and rode on, and thus they got far in advance of him; but --

"Hallo—hop rara!" and there was Jack the Dullard again. "It is getting better and better," he cried. "Hurrah! it is quite famous."

"Why, what have you found this time?" inquired the brothers.

"O," said Jack the Dullard, "I can hardly tell you. How glad the Princess will be!"

"Bah!" said the brothers; "that is nothing but clay out of the ditch."

"Yes, certainly it is," said Jack the Dullard; "and clay of the finest sort. See, it is so wet, it runs through one's fingers." And he filled his pocket with the clay.

But his brothers galloped on till the sparks flew, and consequently they arrived a full hour earlier at the town gate than could Jack. Now at the gate each suitor was provided with a number, and all were placed in rows immediately on their arrival, six in each row, and so closely packed together that they could not move their arms; and that was a prudent arrangement, for they would certainly have come to blows, had they been able, merely because one of them stood before the other.

All the inhabitiants of the country road about stood in great crowds around the castle, almost under the very windows, to see the Princess receive the suitors; and as each stepped into the hall, his power of speech went right out.

"Good for nothing!" said the King's daughter; "out with him!"

Now they came for that brother who knew the dictionary by heart; but he did not know it now; he had absolutely forgotten it altogether; and the boards seemed to reecho with his footsteps, and the ceiling of the hall was made of looking-glass, so that he saw himself standing on his head; and [68] every one of them was writing down every single word that was uttered, so that it might be printed into the newspapers, and sold for a penny at the street corners. It was a terrible ordeal, and they had, moreover, made such a fire in the stove that the fire seemed quite red-hot.

"It is dreadfully hot here!" observed the first Brother.

"Yes," replied the Princess,"my father is going to roast young pullets to-day."

"Baa!" there he stood like a baa-lamb. He had not been prepared for a speech of this kind, and had not a word to say, though he intended to say something witty. "Baa!"

"Good for nothing!" said the Princess; "off with him!" And he was obliged to go accordingly.

And now the second brother came in.

"It is terribly warm here!" he observed.

"Yes, we're roasting pullets to-day," replied the Princess.

"What—what were you—were you pleased to ob—ob"—stammered he—and all the clerks wroted down, "pleased to ob" --

"Good for nothing!" said the Princess. "Away with him!"

Now came the turn of Jack the Dullard. He rode into the hall on his goat.

"Well, it's almost abominably hot here."

"Yes, because I'm roasting young pullets," replied the Princess.

"Ah, that's lucky!" exclaimed Jack the Dullard, "for I suppose you'll let me roast my crow at the same time?"

"With the greatest pleasure," said the Princess. "But have you anything you can roast it in?" for 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 shoe, and put the crow into it.

"Well, that is a famous dish!" said the Princess. "But what shall we do for sauce?"

"O, I have that in my pocket," said Jack: "I have so much of it that I can afford to throw some away;" and poured some of the clay out of his pocket.

[69] "I like that!" said the Princess. "You can give an answer, and you have something to say for yourself, and so you shall be my huisband. But are you aware that every word we speak is being taken down, and will be published in the paper to-morrow? Look yonder and you will see in every window three clerks and a head clerk; and the old head clerk is the worst of all, for he can't understand anything."

But she only said this to frighten Jack the Dullard; and the clerks gave a great crow of delight, and each one spurted a blot out of his pen on to the floor.

"O, those are the gentlemen, are they?" said Jack; "then I will give the best I have to the head clerk." And he turned out his pockets, and flung the wet clay full in the head clerk's face.

"That was very cleverly done," cried the Princess. "I couldn't have done that; but I shall learn in time."

And so Jack the Dullard was made a king, and received a crown and a wife, and sat upon a throne. And we read this in the official report of the head clerk, but that is not altogether to be trusted.


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