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  • The Cunning Shoemaker1
    Page 3

    One after another they all took the donkey, but no money was forthcoming for anybody. At length, when all the band had been tricked, they held a council, and resolved to march to the shoemaker's house and punish him well for his cunning. Just as before, the shoemaker saw them a long way off, and began to think how he could outwit them again. When he had hit upon a plan he called his wife, and said to her, 'Take a bladder and fill it with blood, and bind it round your neck. When the robbers come and demand the money they gave me for the donkey I shall shout to you and tell you to get it quickly. You must argue with me, and decline to obey me, and then I shall plunge my knife into the bladder, and you must fall to the ground as if you were dead. There you must lie till I play on my guitar; then get up and begin to dance.'

    The wife made haste to do as she was bid, and there was no time to lose, for the robbers were drawing very near the house. They entered with a great noise, and overwhelmed the shoemaker with reproaches for having deceived them about the donkey.

    'The poor beast must have lost its power owing to the change of masters,' said he; 'but we will not quarrel about it. You shall have back the fifty gold pieces that you gave for him. Aite,' he cried to his wife, 'go quickly to the chest upstairs, and bring down the money for these gentlemen.'

    'Wait a little,' answered she; 'I must first bake this fish. It will be spoilt if I leave it now.'

    'Go this instant, as you are bid,' shouted the shoemaker, stamping as if he was in a great passion, but, as she did not stir, he drew his knife, and stabbed her in the neck. The blood spurted out freely, and she fell to the ground as if she was dead.

    'What have you done?' asked the robbers, looking at him in dismay. 'The poor woman was doing nothing.'

    'Perhaps I was hasty, but it is easily set right,' replied the shoemaker, taking down his guitar and beginning to play. Hardly had he struck the first notes than his wife sat up ; then got on her feet and danced.

    The robbers stared with open mouths, and at last they said, 'Master Joseph, you may keep the fifty gold pieces. But tell us what you will take for your guitar, for you must sell it to us?'

    'Oh, that is impossible!' replied the shoemaker, 'for every time I have a quarrel with my wife I just strike her dead, and so give vent to my anger. This has become such a habit with me that I don't think I could break myself of it; and, of course, if I got rid of the guitar I could never bring her back to life again.'

    However, the robbers would not listen to him, and at last he consented to take forty gold pieces for the guitar.

    Then they all returned to their cave in the forest, delighted with their new purchase, and longing for a chance of trying its powers. But the captain declared that the first trial belonged to him, and after that the others might have their turn.

    That evening he called to his wife and said, 'What have you got for supper?'

    'Macaroni,' answered she.

    'Why have you not boiled a fish?' he cried, and stabbed her in the neck so that she fell dead. The captain, who was not in the least angry, seized the guitar and began to play; but, let him play as loud as he would, the dead woman never stirred. 'Oh, lying shoemaker! Oh, abominable knave! Twice has he got the better of me. But I will pay him out!'

    1 Sicilianische Mährchen.

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    Lang, Andrew. The Pink Fairy Book. New York: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1904. 154-161

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