Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/Fortune and Knowledge

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ONE day Fortune and Knowledge took a walk together. They happened to drift into a discussion as to what would be of the greatest benefit to mankind. Knowledge thought that to be possessed of a profound learning was most desirable; but Fortune maintained that good luck was the indispensable thing. "Do you see that dull-looking boy ploughing in yonder field?" asked Fortune. "Throw yourself upon him, and make him wise and learned; we shall see how far he progresses without my help."

The dull-looking boy at this moment stopped his horses, looked around, and said to an old man who was helping him that he felt he had become, all at once, so wise that there was nothing of which he did not know all that was or ever would be known. He needed no more to do such common work as ploughing, but wished to go to town and make his fortune by means of his great knowledge.

When he arrived in town he decided to take up a watch-maker's trade. So he entered the house of the Royal watch-maker, asking for a place as an
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apprentice in the workshop. "No," said the watch-maker, "your hands are too big and rough for this kind of work, and you look as if you were able to play a good knife and fork." The young man pleaded as best he could, however, and at length he offered the watch-maker a hundred dollars if he would give him the place he desired. There was now no objection on the part of the master; the young man had his will, but asked to be allowed to work in a room by himself. This was not granted, however, and at length he was given a place among the other apprentices.

The first piece of work which he was asked to do was the polishing of the face of a tower-clock; such toil seemed the most suitable for his big hands. Both this and all other work which he undertook was done, however, to the satisfaction of his master.

One day the king sent a message to the watch-maker, bidding him to make a clock which could walk about on the table, all by itself. When the king said, "Here sits the king!" it was to stop in front of his seat, and beat. This clock was to be finished at a certain time in the near future.

The watch-maker became much puzzled, and said that it was impossible to fulfil his majesty's wish; but the king told him that unless he obeyed his privilege would be taken away from him and given to some one else.

The poor man was much perplexed by this order, but his new apprentice asked to be allowed to make the clock. No attention was paid to this offer, however, and when it was repeated he received a sharp rebuke. As his master looked more and more dejected he offered his services for the third time, and was finally allowed to make the trial; moreover, he was given a room by himself in order that he might remain undisturbed.

When he had been working for some time his master entered to see how he was getting on. "Look, master!" said the young man, "these are the drawings for the clock. The plans are ready, so that the real work can begin." "Let me see once," replied his master, putting on his glasses. He looked from the floor to the ceiling, and back again, and wherever he looked he saw the most singular figures and drawings. "Yes," he said, at length, "this looks well enough," whereupon he walked away. When he stepped into the room, a month later, the apprentice said to him: "All the wheels and other pieces are now ready; when they have been put together the clock is finished." He showed him all these things, and his master could not help thinking, "What will come of it all?" He said nothing, however, but only nodded, and hastened away.

A short time afterwards he returned. At the door he was met by his apprentice, who said: "Now, master, the clock is finished, and we will try it!" "Yes," answered the old man, eagerly; "let us try it!" The clock was placed on the table, at one end of which the master seated himself. The clock walked about, indeed, and when the master, who played the king's part, addressed it, saying, "Here sits the king," it stopped in front of him and beat the exact time. The watch-maker was delighted, and the little clock was obliged to walk about to amuse him and all his apprentices.

On the appointed day the Royal watch-maker appeared at the palace with the clock, followed by his apprentice. The clock was tried in the presence of the whole court, and did its duty so well that the king was not only pleased but wondered greatly at the skill with which the work had been done. He asked his watch-maker why he had been at first so puzzled and so afraid of undertaking the work, since he had been able, nevertheless, to carry it out so well. Thus the man was obliged to explain that it was not he but the boy who had done the work. When the king learned this he declared that if the young man had been able to make this clock he deserved to be promoted. The old man was not satisfied with this declaration, as the boy's apprenticeship was not yet up. When the king gave him, however, a hundred dollars he hesitated no more but did it readily.

The same king had a daughter whom no one could induce to utter a single word. Her father was much afflicted, and promised to make the one who could induce her to speak his successor and son-in-law. Those who tried and failed must, however, lose their lives.

Many persons from all parts of the country had tried in vain to restore the young lady's power of speech. One by one they were conducted into the room of the princess, but no one could call forth a single sound from her by way of reply.

At length the watch-maker's apprentice decided to try, so this young man, whom Knowledge had endowed so well, entered the room. He affected not to see the princess at all, but walked up to a mirror hanging there, and addressed it thus: "Good-morning, little mirror! Let me tell you a story! There were once three men who walked about in the country: a tailor, a sculptor, and a teacher. As they were obliged to keep up a fire at night, they decided that one of them must always keep awake, while the two others slept. First the sculptor was to watch—but this is merely a story, little mirror!—and when he looked about in the dark, he found an infant boy in the grass. He was so surprised that he awoke the tailor, and while the latter rubbed his eyes—but this is merely a tale, little mirror!—he sewed a whole dress for the child. When the school-master's turn came, he at once taught the little boy to speak. But to which of these three men did this boy belong, little mirror?"

"It belonged to the sculptor, of course, since he found it," said the princess, who had become so interested in the story that she could not help
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announcing her opinion. The young man nodded to the mirror, saying: "That is right, little mirror; thanks to you for your kindness!" Upon this he walked out of the door without even looking at the. princess. The ministers, however, who had been listening outside, having heard, nothing, took him into the court-yard to be hanged. At the very same moment the king happened to pass the yard, and as soon as he saw whom the hangman had in his hands, and recognized him as the watch-maker's apprentice who had made the wonderful clock, he pardoned him at once.

Some time afterwards the boy again tried to make the princess speak, but without succeeding—that is, the generals who were this time listening at the door declared that they heard nothing. The young man was accordingly taken into the court-yard and again doomed to be hanged.

At the same moment Fortune and Knowledge happened to pass outside. When they saw what was in progress they stopped. "Look!" exclaimed Fortune; "what good did his great wisdom do him? Now you must admit that fortune is far more valuable than knowledge." "Yes," replied Knowledge; "now you must help him if you can!" Fortune did so, for at the very moment when the young man was standing on the ladder, the princess rushed into the court-yard and told all: He had restored her power of speech; him she wanted to marry! Thus the young man escaped death, married the princess, and became king of the land.