Page:Fairy tales and other stories (Andersen, Craigie).djvu/377

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365
JACK THE DULLARD

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

'Oh,' 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 gallopped on as hard as the harness could stand, 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, 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 inhabitants of the country round 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 seemed to desert him. Then the Princess would say, 'He is of no use! away with him!'

At last the turn came for that brother who knew the dictionary by heart; but he had absolutely forgotten it; and the boards seemed to re-echo with his footsteps, and the ceiling of the hall was made of looking-glass, so that he saw himself standing on his head; and at the window stood three clerks and a head clerk, and every one of them was writing down every single word that was uttered, so that it might be printed in 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 stove-pipe was 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. 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!