Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Obstinate Shoemaker

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ONCE upon a time there was a shoemaker who doted on pancakes. One day he asked his wife to bake him some for dinner. She replied that she was willing enough, but there was no pan in the house, and if he wished for pancakes, he had better go and borrow one from the neighbor. He complied, and at dinner he ate as rapidly as his wife could bake. When they had finished their meal, the shoemaker told his wife to carry the pan back to its owner. She refused, however, and declared that she did not like to carry back borrowed articles. As he insisted, they nearly came to blows, but finally they agreed to go to work, and the one who spoke first should return the pan to its owner.

The shoemaker seated himself on his platform, sewing and handling his shoes and his leather. His wife took her seat by her spinning-wheel, and soon they were working as if life depended upon their handiness. Neither uttered a sound.

In a short time a squire who lived in the neighborhood, and who had given a pair of shoes to the shoemaker to repair, passed the house, bid his coachman stop, and sent his servant in, asking him to see whether his shoes were finished.

The servant walked in, greeted, and delivered his errand.

"Whew, whe-ew, whe-e-e-e-e-e-ew!" whistled the shoemaker, who sat on his three-legged chair, battling with the air, and sewing diligently. As the servant could not draw a single word from him by way of answer, he turned to the woman, whose spinning-wheel went so rapidly that sparks flew from it. "How is it," asked he. "that your husband does not answer when I talk to him?" "Tralala-lide-lide-raderade lidelidelidelidelide ralala!" sang the woman at the top of her voice, spinning with all her might and looking straight into his face. The servant saw that there was nothing for him to do but return to his master in the carriage. The two people must have lost their senses!

When he reached the carriage, the squire asked him if the shoes were finished.

"I don't know," replied he; "the shoemaker and his wife must have lost their senses. The man whistles and the woman sings, and those are all the sounds they utter. They would not say as much as one plain word."

The squire alighted to see what had happened to the persons within. "If they pretend to make fun of their customers, I shall teach them manners," said he to himself. "Here they are, and here I come." So he opened the door and walked in.

The shoemaker whistled with all his might as soon as the squire opened his mouth to speak. The woman sang and shouted with all her might; but neither of them seemed to notice his question as to the shoes. At length he became vexed, seized his riding-whip, and lifted it over the woman's shoulders. The shoemaker stole a glance at them, but said nothing.

A minute later the whip was dancing lustily across the shoulder-blades of the woman, who at once struck up a new tune, but less merry than before. But this was too much for the shoemaker. He jumped from his seat, rushed at the squire, and bid him stop.

"Ah," exclaimed the squire, "you are not mute. I am pleased to know that your voice is in as good working order as your fingers seem to be."

"You spoke first," cried the woman to her husband, "and you must carry the pan back to our neighbor!"

Now they told the squire of their quarrel and agreement, and it greatly amused him when he learned that he had settled the dispute. I do not know whether or not his shoes were finished; but that cuts no figure. I saw, however, the shoemaker when he slouched through the back yard with the pan carefully concealed under his coat. It served him right that his wife won the wager. What do you think?