The Tale of Ivan
 THERE were formerly a man and a woman living in the parish of
Llanlavan, in the place which is called Hwrdh. And work
became scarce, so the man said to his wife, I will go search
for work, and you may live here." So he took fair leave, and
travelled far toward the East, and at last came to the house
of a farmer and asked for work.
"What work can ye do?" said the farmer.
"I can do all kinds of work," said Ivan.
Then they agreed upon three pounds for the year's wages.
When the end of the year came his master showed him the
three pounds. "See, Ivan," said he, "here's your wage; but
if you will give it me back I'll give you a piece of advice
"Give me my wage," said Ivan.
 "No, I'll not," said the master; "I'll explain my advice."
"Tell it me, then," said Ivan.
Then said the master, "Never leave the old road for the
sake of a new one."
After that they agreed for another year at the old wages,
and at the end of it Ivan took instead a piece of advice,
and this was it: "Never lodge where an old man is married to
a young woman."
The same thing happened at the end of the third year, when
the piece of advice was: "Honesty is the best policy."
But Ivan would not stay longer, but wanted to go back to his
"Don't go to-day," said his master; "my wife bakes
to-morrow, and she shall make thee a cake to take home to thy
And when Ivan was going to leave, "Here," said his master,
"here is a cake for thee to take home to thy wife, and,
when ye are most joyous together, then break the cake, and
So he took fair leave of them and travelled towards home,
and at last he came to Wayn Her, and there he met three
merchants from Tre Rhyn, of his own parish, coming home from
Exeter Fair. "Oho! Ivan," said they, "come with us; glad
are we to see you. Where have you been so long?"
"I have been in service," said Ivan, "and now I'm going home
to my wife."
"Oh, come with us! you'll be right welcome."
But when they took the new road Ivan kept to the old
And robbers fell upon them before they had gone far from
Ivan as they were going by the fields of the houses in the
meadow. They began to cry out, "Thieves!" and Ivan shouted
out "Thieves!" too. And when the robbers heard Ivan's
shout they ran away, and the merchants went by the new road
and Ivan by the old one till they met again at Market-Jew.
"Oh, Ivan," said the merchants, "we are beholding to you;
but for you we would have been lost men. Come lodge with us
at our cost, and welcome."
When they came to the place where they used to lodge, Ivan
said, "I must see the host."
"The host," they cried; "what do you want with the host?
Here is the hostess, and she's young and pretty. If you want
to see the host you'll find him in the kitchen."
So he went into the kitchen to see the host; he found him a
weak old man turning the spit.
"Oh! oh!" quoth Ivan, "I'll not lodge here, but will go
"Not yet," said the merchants, "sup with us, and welcome."
Now it happened that the hostess had plotted with a certain
monk in Market-Jew to murder the old man in his bed that
night while the rest were asleep, and they agreed to lay it
on the lodgers.
So while Ivan was in bed next door, there was a hole in the
pine-end of the house, and he saw a light through it. So he
got up and looked, and heard the monk speaking. "I had
better cover this hole," said he, "or people in the next
house may see our deeds." So
 he stood with his back against
it while the hostess killed the old man.
But meanwhile Ivan out with his knife, and putting it
through the hole, cut a round piece off the monk's robe.
The very next morning the hostess raised the cry that her
husband was murdered, and as there was neither man nor child
in the house but the merchants, she declared they ought to
be hanged for it.
So they were taken and carried to prison, till at last Ivan
came to them. "Alas! alas! Ivan," cried they, "bad luck
sticks to us; our host was killed last night, and we shall
be hanged for it."
"Ah, tell the justices," said Ivan, "to summon the real
"Who knows," they replied, "who committed the crime?"
"Who committed the crime!" said Ivan. "If I cannot prove
who committed the crime, hang me in your stead."
So he told all he knew, and brought out the piece of cloth
from the monk's robe, and with that the merchants were set
at liberty, and the hostess and the monk were seized and
Then they came all together out of Market-Jew, and they said
to him: "Come as far as Coed Carrn y Wylfa, the Wood of the
Heap of Stones of Watching, in the parish of Burman. Then
their two roads separated, and though the merchants wished
Ivan to go with them, he would not go with them, but went
straight home to his wife.
And when his wife saw him she said: "Home in the nick of
time. Here's a purse of gold that I've found; it
 has no name, but sure it belongs to the great lord yonder. I was
just thinking what to do when you came."
Then Ivan thought of the third counsel, and he said: "Let us
go and give it to the great lord."
So they went up to the castle, but the great lord was not in
it, so they left the purse with the servant that minded the
gate, and then they went home again and lived in quiet for a
But one day the great lord stopped at their house for a
drink of water, and Ivan's wife said to him: "I hope your
lordship found your lordship's purse quite safe with all its
money in it."
"What purse is that you are talking about?" said the lord.
"Sure, it's your lordship's purse that I left at the
castle," said Ivan.
"Come with me and we will see into the matter," said the
So Ivan and his wife went up to the castle, and there they
pointed out the man to whom they had given the purse, and he
had to give it up and was sent away from the castle.
And the lord was so pleased with Ivan that he made him his
servant in the stead of the thief.
"Honesty's the best policy!" quoth Ivan, as he skipped about
in his new quarters. "How joyful I am!"
Then he thought of his old master's cake that he was to eat
when he was most joyful, and when he broke it, lo and
behold, inside it was his wages for the three years he had
been with him.
Hundreds of additional titles available for
online reading when you join Gateway to the Classics