THE CLEVER WIFE
NCE there was a famous castle-builder by the name of
Gobborn Seer, and he had a son called Jack. In the
course of time Jack grew to be a young man, and the old
castle-builder began to think of teaching him his trade
and leaving his business to him."Jack is a good boy,"
said he; "but he is not quick with his brains. I must
see what I can do for his education."
So one day he sent Jack to sell a sheepskin, and he
said to him, "You must bring me back the skin and the
value of it as well."
Jack went, but he could not find any one who would
leave him the skin and give him its price, too, and he
came home discouraged.
"Never mind," said his father, "you can try again
The next day Jack went out once more with the skin, but
nobody wished to buy it on such terms.
"Well," said his father, when Jack returned home, "so
you have not sold the skin yet? However, go out
to-morrow and your luck may be better."
 On the third day Jack set off as before and
trudged hither and yon till nearly nightfall and could
not find a customer who would pay him for the skin
without having it. At last he came to a bridge across a
little river, and when he was half way over the bridge
he stopped and leaned on the parapet, thinking of his
troubles." I shall never be able to get rid of this
horrid sheepskin if I live to be as old as Methuselah,"
said he."I'm thinking I'd better run away from home and
have quit of the job."
While he was talking to himself thus he looked over the
side of the bridge and saw a girl washing clothes on
the border of the stream. At the same time she looked
up and saw him, and said, "If it may be no offence
asking, what is it you feel so badly about?"
Jack held up the sheepskin that she might see it, and
replied, "My father has given me this skin to sell, and
I am to fetch it back and the price of it besides."
"Is that all?" laughed the girl."Such a task ought not
to trouble you in the least. Bring the skin down here."
Jack carried it down to her and she washed it in the
stream and took the wool from it. Then
 she paid
him its value and kept the wool, but gave him the skin
to carry back.
When Jack reached home he told his father all that had
happened, and his father said, "That was a clever woman
you met at the bridge, and she would make you a good
wife. Do you think you could find her again?"
"I think so," replied Jack.
"Well, then," his father said, "you go and see if she
is at the same place to-morrow, and if she is there,
bid her come home with you and take a cup of tea with
The young fellow did as his father suggested, and, sure
enough, he found the girl at the waterside and told her
how his old father had a wish to meet her, and would
she be pleased to take tea with them?
The girl thanked him kindly and accepted the
invitation. When she came the old man did not have to
talk with her long to assure himself that she was
uncommonly keen-witted, and then he asked her if she
would marry his Jack.
"Yes," said she, and they were married.
Not long afterward Gobborn Seer told his son he must
come with him and build the finest castle that ever was
seen. The castle was to be for their
 king, who
wished to outdo all the other kings in the world with
his wonderful castle. So they set off for the place
where the castle was to stand, and, as they walked
along, the old man said to Jack,
"Can you not shorten the way for me?"
"It is many long miles we have to go," replied Jack,
"and I would shorten them if I could, but I fear that
is not possible."
"Ah, well!" said the old man, "if you cannot shorten
the way, you are no good to me and had better go back
So poor Jack returned, and when he entered the house
door his wife cried out, "Why! how is it that you are
back so soon?"
He told her what his father had said and what he had
"You stupid!" said his clever wife, "why didn't you
tell a tale? That would have shortened the road! He
would have forgotten the miles and the weariness. Now
listen till I repeat to you a story, and then you catch
up with your father and begin it at once. He will like
hearing it, and by the time it is done you will have
arrived where the castle is to be."
Jack heard the story, and then he ran as fast as he
could until he overtook his father. The old
said never a word, but Jack began his story, and the
road was shortened as his wife had said.
At the end of their journey they found many workmen
assembled and waiting for them. The workmen had been
sent there by the king to labor under the direction of
the old castle-builder and his son, and without delay
they were set to laying the foundations of the castle.
For a year the builders worked, and Gobborn Seer and
Jack and their helpers had erected such a castle that
thousands came to admire it. Last of all the king came
"Is the castle done?" he asked.
"I have just a ceiling to finish in an upper hall,"
replied Gobborn Seer, "and then it will want nothing."
"Very well," said the king, "I shall return to-morrow
and pay you for your labor."
But after the king had gone a friendly courtier sent
for Gobborn and his son and told them he had learned
that the king was so afraid they would now build some
other king as fine a castle as his that he meant on the
morrow to throw them into prison and keep them there
for the rest of their lives.
"That sounds bad," said the old man to Jack, "but keep
a good heart and we will come off all right yet."
 The next day, when the king arrived, Gobborn told
him he had been unable to complete the upper hall for
lack of a certain tool."I shall have to go home for
that tool," said he.
"No, no!" exclaimed the king, "you can send just as
"Yes, I might send Jack, I suppose," the old man
"Don't do that," the king said; "it will be better to
have Jack here with you. Let one of the workmen do the
"But the tool I want is a very delicate one," explained
Gobborn, "and there's not a workman among them all to
whom I would trust it."
"Well, then, what would you say to having my own son do
the errand for you?" asked the king.
"Let him go, by all means," Gobborn replied, "and I
will send a note by him to Jack's wife telling her
where to find the tool."
Then he wrote this message: "I need my seequir. It is
in the big tool chest in the attic. Don't let the
prince who does this errand return without it."
"Jack," said the old castle-builder when the prince had
gone, "if your wife is as clever as I think she is we
can rest easy now. That message
 will give her a
hint of what she is to do, and we can trust her to
accomplish the rest."
As soon as Jack's wife read the letter the prince
brought she saw that something was wrong.
"There is no such tool as a seequir," she thought, "and
that big chest in the attic is empty; and yet the note
says for me not to let the prince return without the
tool. Well, I won't."
Then she said to the prince, "I think I shall have to
ask you to help me get that tool."
"I am at your service, madam," replied the prince with
a polite bow.
So Jack's wife led the way to the attic and said, "Here
is the big chest. I will lift the lid and you must
reach down into the bottom of the chest after the
"With pleasure," responded the prince, but no sooner
had he leaned over with his head and arms in the chest
than Jack's wife gave him a shove that tumbled him into
the big box, heels and all, and then she slammed down
the cover and locked it. Next she hunted up an augur
and bored some holes in the lid to let in a little air
and light to the prisoner.
"Now, Prince," said she, "I want to know what is the
matter with my husband and his father."
 The prince did not wish to say.
"You are going to tell me the whole story," ordered
Jack's wife, "and if you don't start with it right off
I shall bring up a kettle of hot water from the fire
and pour some through these augur holes. That will
loosen your tongue, I'll be bound."
So the prince told how Gobborn Seer and his son were
going to be imprisoned.
"We'll have to put a stop to such doings," said Jack's
wife."Do you hear me. Prince?—you and I will have to
put a stop to such doings."
"Yes," replied the prince, "I hear you."
He did not feel much like arguing, shut up in that box
with those augur holes in the lid that only
in a little light and air, but which might admit a good
deal of hot water.
"Very well," said Jack's wife, "I'm going to get some
paper and a pen and ink, and I'll slip them in through
these holes to you. Then you can write a letter to the
king, your father, and let him know that you will never
return alive unless the old castle-builder and his son
She got the writing materials and poked them through
the augur holes to the prince, and he wrote as she
The letter frightened the king and he at once paid
Gobborn for his work and let him and his son go to
"Jack," said his father, as they were on the way "your
wife has helped us nobly. You ought now to reward her
by building a castle for her far finer than the one we
have made for the king;" and that was what Jack did,
and they lived in it happily ever after.
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