Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Deacon's Dream

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LONG, long ago there lived in the western part of Jutland a minister and a deacon. There were two congregations and two churches, but the one minister had charge of both.

One Sunday, the minister and his helpmate, the deacon, were driving across the country, when they observed a herd of beautiful cattle in a cornfield next to the road.

"Nice cattle," said the minister.

"Amen," agreed the deacon.

"I wish I were able to buy one of the heifers," continued the reverend gentleman, sighing.

"Indeed!" replied the deacon, and mused a little; but then he continued: "Maybe it could be managed if we went over here to-night—you know."

"Certainly not," said the minister, earnestly; "that would never do."

"It would," persisted the other. "No one would suspect persons in our position."

When midnight came, the two men sneaked along the road and entered the field, where they caught and killed a fine-looking heifer, and afterwards divided the meat into two parts, one for each of them. They were unable to agree, however, upon the question of who should receive the hide, but finally the deacon proposed that they might wrestle for it. This they did; the minister taking hold at the horns, and the deacon seizing the tail. So they tugged quite a while, until the tail slipped away from the deacon's hands, upon which he tumbled over, receiving a severe bump at the place which is highest when you are gathering acorns. Thus the minister won the hide, and both men returned home with their spoils.

Some time hence the bishop was inspecting the churches and schools of his district, and was, upon his arrival at the parsonage, well received by the pastor and his family. Later, the deacon and several faithful church-members were invited to supper, in honor of the bishop's arrival. During the evening, this eminent gentleman took occasion to utter his pleasure in finding that the minister and the deacon agreed so well in every way.

"Well," observed the deacon, "we do, that is quite true—and yet I remember one occasion when we really did get into a small scramble. It occurred when we went out in the night stealing a heifer. We shared the meat brotherly, but we fought over the hide."

On hearing him proceed in this manner, the clergyman grew pale and arose, asking the deacon to step outside with him. When the door had closed after them, he said: "Are you crazy, man? Don't you know that if the bishop learns all about the matter you told him of, we shall both become unhappy for the rest of our lives?"

"Just let me talk," answered the deacon, smiling. "He sha'n't learn anything. Leave it to me." So they returned to the dining-room.

"Well," said the bishop, "what did you then do with the hide?"

"The hide? Oh yes," replied the deacon. "Yes, we fought over it; and finally I fell, because the tail happened to slip out of my hands—and I got an awful bump, you know—and then I awoke!"

"O—oh, was it only a dream?" observed the bishop.

"Of course; yes, of course it was," replied the cunning deacon. "It could be nothing else—nothing else, your Eminence."