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The Oak-Tree Fairy Book by  Clifton Johnson
Table of Contents


 

 

THE FISHERMAN AND HIS WIFE

[226]

T
HERE was once a fisherman who lived with his wife in a poor little hut close by the sea. One day, as the fisherman sat on the rocks at the water's edge fishing with his rod and line, a fish got caught on his hook that was so big and pulled so stoutly that he captured it with the greatest difficulty. He was feeling much pleased that he had secured so big a fish when he was surprised by hearing it say to him, "Pray let me live. I am not a real fish. I am a magician. Put me in the water and let me go."

"You need not make so many words about the matter," said the man. "I wish to have nothing to do with a fish that can talk."

Then he removed it from his hook and put it back into the water." Now swim away as soon as you please," said the man, and the fish darted straight down to the bottom.


[Illustration]

The fisherman returned to his little hut and told his wife how he had caught a great fish, and how it [227] had told him it was a magician, and how, when he heard it speak, he had let it go.

"Did you not ask it for anything?" said the wife.

"No," replied the man; "what should I ask for?"

"What should you ask for!" exclaimed the wife.

[228] "You talk as if we had everything we want, but see how wretchedly we live in this dark little hut. Do go back and tell the fish we want a comfortable house."

The fisherman did not like to undertake such an errand. However, as his wife had bidden him to go, he went; and when he came to the sea the water looked all yellow and green. He stood on the rocks where he had fished and said,

"Oh, man of the sea!

Come listen to me;

For Alice my wife,

The plague of my life,

Hath sent me to beg a gift of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said, "Well, what does she want?"


[Illustration]

"Ah," answered the fisherman, "my wife says that when I had caught you I ought to have asked you for something before I let you go. She does not like living any longer in our little hut. She wants a comfortable house."

"Go home then," said the fish; "she is in the house she wants already."

So the man went home and found his wife standing in the doorway of a comfortable house, and behind the house was a yard with ducks and [229] chickens picking about in it, and beyond the yard was a garden where grew all sorts of flowers and fruits. "How happily we shall live now!" said the fisherman.

Everything went right for a week or two, and then the wife said, "Husband, there is not enough room in this house, and the yard and garden are a great deal smaller than they ought to be. I would [230] like to have a large stone castle to live in. So go to the fish again and tell him to give us a castle."

"Wife," said the fisherman, "I don't like to go to him again, for perhaps he will be angry. We ought to be content with a good house like this."

"Nonsense!" said the wife, "he will give us a castle very willingly. Go along and try."

The fisherman went, but his heart was heavy, and when he came to the sea the water was a dark gray color and looked very gloomy. He stood on the rocks at the water's edge and said,

"Oh, man of the sea!

Come listen to me;

For Alice my wife,

The plague of my life,

Hath sent me to beg a gift of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said, "Well, what does she want now?"

"Ah," replied the man very sorrowfully, "my wife wants to live in a stone castle."

"Go home then," said the fish; "she is at the castle already."

So away went the fisherman and found his wife standing before a great castle. "See," said she, "is not this fine?"

[231] They went into the castle, and many servants were there, and the rooms were richly furnished with handsome chairs and tables; and behind the castle was a park half a mile long, full of sheep and goats and rabbits and deer.

"Now," said the man, "we will live contented and happy in this beautiful castle for the rest of our lives."

"Perhaps so," responded the wife; "but let us consider and sleep on it before we make up our minds," and they went to bed.

The next morning when they awoke it was broad daylight, and the wife jogged the fisherman with her elbow and said, "Get up, husband; bestir yourself, for we must be king and queen of all the land."

"Wife, wife," said the man, "why should we wish to be king and queen? I would not be king even if I could be."

"Well, I will be queen, anyway," said the wife. "Say no more about it; but go to the fish and tell him what I want."

So the man went, but he felt very sad to think that his wife should want to be queen. The sea was muddy and streaked with foam as he cried out,

[232]

"Oh, man of the sea!

Come listen to me;

For Alice my wife,

The plague of my life,

Hath sent me to beg a gift of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said, "Well, what would she have now?"

"Alas!" said the man, "my wife wants to be queen."

"Go home," said the fish; "she is queen already."

So the fisherman turned back and presently he came to a palace, and before it he saw a troop of soldiers, and he heard the sound of drums and trumpets. Then he entered the palace and there he found his wife sitting on a throne, with a golden crown on her head, and on each side of her stood six beautiful maidens.

"Well, wife," said the fisherman, "are you queen?"

"Yes," she replied, "I am queen."

When he had looked at her for a long time he said, " Ah, wife! what a fine thing it is to be queen! Now we shall never have anything more to wish for."

"I don't know how that may be," said she; "never is a long time. I am queen, 'tis true, but I begin to be tired of it. I think I would like to be pope next."

[233] "Oh, wife, wife!" the man exclaimed, "how can you be pope? There is but one pope at a time in all Christendom."

"Husband," said she, "I will be pope this very day."

"Ah, wife!" responded the fisherman, "the fish cannot make you pope and I would not like to ask for such a thing."

"What nonsense!" said she. "If he can make a queen, he can make a pope. Go and try."

So the fisherman went, and when he came to the shore the wind was raging and the waves were dashing on the rocks most fearfully, and the sky was dark with flying clouds. The fisherman was frightened, but nevertheless he obeyed his wife and called out,

"Oh, man of the sea!

Come listen to me;

For Alice my wife,

The plague of my life,

Hath sent me to beg a gift of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said, "What does she want this time?"

"Ah!" said the fisherman, "my wife wants to be pope."

"Go home," commanded the fish; "she is pope already."

[234] So the fisherman went home and found his wife sitting on a throne that was a hundred feet high, and on either side many candles of all sizes were burning, and she had three great crowns on her head one above the other and was surrounded by all the pomp and power of the Church.

"Wife," said the fisherman, as he gazed at all this magnificence, "are you pope?"

"Yes," she replied, "I am pope."

"Well, wife," said he, "it is a grand thing to be pope; and now you must be content, for you can be nothing greater."

"We will see about that," she said.

Then they went to bed; but the wife could not sleep because all night long she was trying to think what she should be next. At last morning came and the sun rose. "Ha!" cried she, "I was about to sleep, had not the sun disturbed me with its bright light. Cannot I prevent the sun rising?" and she became very angry and said to her husband, "Go to the fish and tell him I want to be lord of the sun and moon."

"Alas, wife!" said he, "can you not be content to be pope?"

"No," said she, "I am very uneasy, and cannot bear to see the sun and moon rise without my leave. Go to the fish at once!"

[235] The man went, and as he approached the shore a dreadful storm arose so that the trees and rocks shook, and the sky grew black, and the lightning flashed, and the thunder rolled, and the sea was covered with vast waves like mountains. The fisherman trembled so that his knees knocked together, and he had hardly strength to stand in the gale while he called to the fish:

"Oh, man of the sea!

Come listen to me;

For Alice my wife,

The plague of my life,

Hath sent me to beg a gift of thee!"

Then the fish came swimming to him and said, "What more does she want?"

"Ah!" said the man, "she wants to be lord of the sun and moon."

"Go home to your hut again," said the fish.

So the man returned, and the palace was gone, and in its place he found the dark little hut that had formerly been his dwelling, and he and his wife have lived in that little hut to this very day.


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