Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/Doctor and Detective

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THERE was once an old farmer who had a great deal of turf, which he sold to customers in town. One day, when he drove to town with a large wagon-load, he chanced to meet a doctor. This worthy man came walking along in a stately manner, with a long pipe in his mouth, a cane in his hand, and a doctor's hat on his head. Under his arm he had a thick doctor-book. He was wrapped in a long, loose mantle. The farmer tipped his hat reverently, whereupon the doctor addressed him and said that he would like to buy the turf. They talked back and forth for some time, and finally came to an agreement in regard to the price. The farmer was to have the long mantle, the pipe and the cane, the doctor's hat and the book, and the doctor was to receive the turf. The bargain was closed. The farmer secured the doctor's articles and the doctor the farmer's turf, and then each went his own way.

It was late before the farmer returned home to his wife. She asked him at once if he had made a good bargain. When he produced the entire doctor's equipment she was not at all pleased, but wept, and asked, plaintively, how they would now obtain their bread and butter, since he had received no money for the turf. Her husband did his best to comfort her, saying that in a little while they would have all that they needed, for now he had decided to take up a doctor's profession. He put on the mantle and the doctor's hat, and with the long pipe dangling from between his teeth he sat from morning to night reading diligently in the large doctor-book. He looked exactly like a real doctor; no one would notice the slightest difference; but, nevertheless, no one came to consult him. Thinking the reason might be that no one knew of him, he at length decided to place a sign above his door stating, "Here lives the Greatest Doctor in the World," as he was sure this would at once turn the general attention towards him. He began to paint these letters on an old board. But as he had a very faint idea of writing—in fact, this was the first time he had ever tried the art—he wrote instead, "Here lives the Greatest Detective in the World."

A few days afterwards the king happened to pass the house of the "Greatest Detective." "What in all the world is written on that sign?" said he, despatching one of his servants over to examine it closely. The servant reported that the sign advertised the greatest detective in the world. "Well," said the king, "I shall remember him and employ his services some day."

Some time after it happened that a thief entered the Royal stables and stole two of the king's best horses. A thorough search was made throughout the land, both for the thief and the horses, but without success. At length some one reminded the king of the Detective, whose house they had passed. "Exactly so!" cried the king. "Now we shall find both thief and horses." He at once bid one of his men go and seek the wise man's advice in the difficult problem. The man rode back, found the house, knocked at the door, and walked in. Here he saw the Detective sitting in front of the table, reading in the large doctor-book. He took off his hat, bowed politely, and presented the king's compliments. "I have come," he said, "to ask—" "That is all very well," interrupted the doctor; "I know it already." "Oh yes, of course you do," answered the messenger. "Will you kindly direct me where to go and find them?" "Ye-es," replied the wise man, turning the leaves in the large book before him, "I will tell you what to do. Wait a moment." Now he took out a slip of paper which he had found among the leaves in the book, folded it, and handed it to the messenger, directing him to go to the drugstore and have this prescription filled. "Take the medicine promptly," he concluded; "then you will find them!" He looked just as wise and important as any doctor in the land, and waved his hand graciously at the messenger as a sign that the audience was at an end.

The messenger lost no time in having the prescription filled, and as soon as the medicine was in his hands he took a pull at the bottle, and rode along as rapidly as he could, anxious to return to the king and relate his interview with the extraordinary man who seemed to know all beforehand. He had not gone very far, however, before the medicine began to act: of a sudden he was seized with a terrible headache, and was obliged to seek refuge in a house near the road, where he was very kindly received. Thinking that a little rest would do him good, he lay down on a sofa in a room facing the yard. The headache became more and more severe, however, and the poor fellow cursed the wise man and his medicine with all his heart. But just as he complained of his evil fate, he heard the neighing of a horse in the stable across the yard. He arose quietly and approached the window, listening attentively, as the neighing seemed familiar to him. Now the horse neighed once more. His doubts vanished, and at the same moment his headache seemed to also completely vanish. Silently he opened the window, jumped into the yard, crept into the stable, and at once found the stolen horses, which he immediately untied. A few hours later he stood before the king, who did not know how to praise and reward the wisdom of the Great Detective before whom nothing was, of course, concealed. He lost no time in sending him two hundred dollars as a token of his high esteem and his gratitude. When the doctor received the money he said to his wife that a doctor's trade seemed to be a very easy one, and she answered that his bargain, which had seemed to her a foolish one, was, after all, quite satisfactory so far.

Some time passed, when one day a beautiful gold ring belonging to the princess was stolen. A diligent search was made, but it seemed to have vanished altogether, with the thief. At length the Great Detective was named to the king as the right man to be consulted in this difficult affair. His Majesty lost no time in sending a beautiful carriage and a messenger, with an invitation to the great man: Would he kindly assist in finding the gold ring which had been stolen?" Yes, I know it all," said he to the messenger who stood before him, bowing politely, "and I am willing to come." So he entered the carriage in his complete doctor's equipment, followed by his wife, whereupon they drove to the Royal palace. The king himself stepped forward and opened the carriage door to the worthy couple, bowing and scraping and making himself agreeable. He invited them to partake of a dinner; the following day they would begin the search for the ring. The wise man assented to this, and they proceeded to the dinner-table, which was, of course, laid in a splendid and gorgeous manner. The doctor whispered to his wife, that she must remember how many dishes they had. When all had been seated, the door was opened and in came the servant with the first dish. The wise man looked at his wife, nodded, and said, "This is the first one." He did not see—in fact, no one did—that the servant turned as pale as a sheet, but busied himself with doing justice to the excellent things before him.

The servant, however, was fearfully frightened, and before returning to the kitchen he stopped behind the chair of the Great Detective, plucking him by the sleeve in order to attract his attention, but without apparent result. The dismayed man had nothing to do but return to the kitchen. He was one of the thieves, and, with two other servants, had stolen the ring and buried it in the Royal gardens under a large apple-tree. Pale and trembling from fear, he told his two friends how the Great Detective had said to his wife, "This is the first one"—meaning, of course, the first thief. As the second servant was to carry in the next dish, his two comrades told him to do his best and ask the wise man to step into the kitchen. Perhaps he could be induced to spare their lives.

As the servant entered the dining-hall, the doctor said to his wife, "This is the second one." She nodded. The servant grew white from fear and pulled him from behind by the sleeve. The great man thought, however, of nothing but the dishes, and did not feel the servant's endeavor to attract his attention. Thus the poor fellow was obliged to return to the kitchen without having accomplished his errand.

When the third servant entered the doctor said to his wife, "This is the third one." The servant pulled him, however, so violently by the sleeve that he turned in his chair, asking what he wanted. "Would he," whispered the unfortunate man, "go with him into the kitchen?" So he arose and followed him.

When he entered the kitchen the three servants implored him to spare them. He was right; they had stolen the ring. The wise man looked keenly at the three culprits, bit his lips, and said that of course he had known it all the time. They were great rascals who deserved a severe punishment. He did not know whether he could really save them from the gallows. They now fell upon their knees and implored him to show mercy. They would be willing to give back the ring and pay him two hundred dollars if he would agree to keep their secret. This he promised, and before leaving them he told them to put the ring into a cake and serve it to the king's dog the next morning. They promised to do as he bid them.

Next morning the king began to speak of the lost ring. The Great Detective assumed his most important air, looked around him, and finally fixed his glance upon the big dog which was walking about on the floor. They were just eating breakfast, and when one of the servants carried around the dishes he stole a glance at the doctor and nodded, thus assuring him that the dog had eaten the cake. "Can you tell me where to find the thief and the ring?" pursued the king. "Both are in this room!" answered he. The king looked around in great astonishment. "Both in this room?" repeated he. "There is the thief," continued the doctor, pointing to the dog. Now the king was thoroughly amazed, and even angry; he thought the wise man made fun of him. "Kill the thief," said the doctor, sternly, "and you will be sure to find the ring." They did so at once, and, indeed, found the ring in the stomach of the animal.

The wise man received a great sum of money from the king, and afterwards the three servants paid him the two hundred dollars which they had promised him for keeping their secret.

But from this day the doctor became so famous that no one dared to steal. His very name frightened the thieves and made them control their evil instincts. Although he was no more called upon to detect stolen goods, he had already earned money enough for the rest of his lifetime. He lived happily many years, honored by every one in the land.