Danish Fairy and Folk Tales/The Pike

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THIS story begins on a beautiful, warm summer day, many years ago—a Sunday, moreover. The birds were chirping sweetly in the calm woods; around the edges of the yellow-tinted cornfields shone thousands of many-colored, sweet-scented flowers; in short, everything was peaceful, quiet, and agreeable.

At the outskirts of Timmylimtimtown there lived a fat old monk who had settled in the neighborhood of a small chapel, where the peasants would hold their service on Sunday morning. So the worthy Father Jonas had repaired to the place of meeting on this particular Sunday morning, and the members of his flock arrived, one after another, when Brother Timmy Timmylim, who lived a short distance down the road, appeared, standing at his gate, enjoying the beautiful, fresh morning breeze. The bees hummed merrily; one butterfly after another danced across the road, while Timmy stood leaning on the gate, meditating if he might not spend his Sunday in a more profitable way than sitting in the little, crowded chapel, falling asleep when Brother Jonas arrived at the latter half of the sermon. What if he slipped through the back yard and crept down the hill to the little sparkling brook, where pikes were plentiful? There he might rest comfortably on the grass under the shady alders, and smoke his pipe and watch the pikes going up the stream until one of them swallowed his bait and hook and was caught. Then he would bring the fish into the kitchen and ask his wife to fry it in butter—fresh, yellow, delicious butter. Um-m-m, what a fine gravy that would make!

So Timmy went down to the brook, seated himself comfortably under a big tree, and threw out his line. In a little while there was a great splash in the water, followed by a violent tug on the line. Timmy jumped to his feet and pulled with all his might. At length he brought up a large pike—so large and fat and firm that he did not remember having ever seen the like of it. It did not take long ere the fish was securely fastened to a string and hung on a hook on Timmy's back porch, awaiting its final fate.

In the mean time Father Jonas had preached his sermon in the chapel across the way, and on returning home he decided to stop at Timmylim's to learn the reason why Timmy had not put in appearance.

"How are you, brother?" said he, entering the spacious drawing-room, where Timmy rested in delightful anticipation of the forthcoming dinner. "How is your good health, my friend? You weren't at the chapel this morning, I believe. Why, I stood there, talking and talking, and, upon my word, every little while I looked around to see if my good friend had not arrived; but then I happened to think how fond Timmy is of—ahem—fishing."

"My land!" cried Timmy, in great astonishment. "How could Father guess that?"

"Well," replied the minister, blinking at the farmer in a mysterious manner, "I don't know. I suppose the fine weather made me think so; and then, it is mighty nice pastime to sit under those alders waiting for the fish to bite—I know it is."

"How in all the world did Father learn that?" cried the farmer again. "Now, to speak the truth, I was awfully sleepy. I got up very early, and then I thought it would be a shame to fall asleep during the service. So I says to myself, 'Better move about, Timmy,' says I, and so it came that I went down to the brook."

"Oh yes," observed the minister, "yes, of course; you are excused, Timmy. Upon my word, if I were not forced to be punctual, I might not always myself—ahem. I was going to ask whether you caught anything."

"To be sure I did," proudly admitted Timmy. "I caught a mighty big pike. Perhaps Father will be pleased to step out and take a view of it."

Out they went, and the preacher exclaimed: "What a fine specimen, Timmy! Indeed you were, lucky. How firm and solid the meat is! But, my friend," added the worthy man, after a short pause, "it was not what I call right to go fishing on the Lord's day, especially at the very time when the service was held. You know, Timmy, the third commandment, don't you?"

The farmer winced slightly at this mild reproach.

"Father mustn't be angry with me," said he, at length. "Indeed, I was just thinking if it might not be well to keep the fish until to-morrow, and ask Father to come and take dinner with us. Father would do me a great favor by coming."

"Thank you, my friend. I am greatly obliged to you. Indeed, I shall be here."

So they talked a little back and forth about weather and winds and the crop, whereupon the minister took leave and returned home.

Sitting in his cosey arm-chair before the open window, Father Jonas, softly fanned by the mild summer breeze, fell into a day-dream, from which he was aroused when supper-time drew near, and he felt hungry. Reflecting upon the scant provision in the cupboard on the wall, he came to think of Timmylim's pike. Such a fish! What if he had a bite of pike for supper, and what if John, his servant boy, skipped over to the brook and tried his luck? Dear him, how such a fish would taste, with butter-gravy and fried potatoes!

"John!" called Father Jonas, bending forward and thrusting his head out of the window. "John, let's see you!"

John promptly appeared, asking what his master desired.

"Johnny," said the preacher, "don't you think you might go down to the brook and catch a pike or something for supper? I have been sitting here the whole afternoon, thinking of fish."

"It's too late," replied the boy. "Pikes don't bite in the afternoon."

"Don't they?" exclaimed Father Jonas, greatly astonished. "Why, this morning I saw a large pike hanging at the back porch of Timmy Timmylim's—house such a big, fat one, too! Now, Johnny—Johnny, my boy—don't you think—I mean go and try, and do your best, and find something for me. I know I can trust you."

Johnny left with a nod and a knowing smile, and lo! in a little while he returned with a beautiful pike, large and firm and fat.

So Father Jonas had pike, with fried potatoes and butter-gravy, for supper, in spite of the fact that pikes refuse to bite in the afternoon.

Next day he repaired punctually to Timmy Timmylim's house.

"Oh, my land!" cried Timmy, in great anguish, when the preacher entered. "What shall I do and what shall I say! The pike is gone—stolen right out of the yard, before my eyes, and yet I did not see the thief."

"Why, that is very disagreeable," meant Jonas; "that is, indeed, very discomforting. But now you see, my friend, that I was right in saying that there was no blessing in that pike. You caught it on a Sabbath day."

"No, indeed, there was no blessing in it," ruefully repeated the farmer. "But couldn't Father read in his books and find out who is the thief?"

The preacher shook his head.

"No," said he, "it cannot be found out. Remember, my friend, it was caught on the Sabbath."

"Such a rascal of a thief," cried Timmy, in great anger, "to steal that fine, fine fish! But won't Father do me the favor of condemning the robber, whoever he may be, from the pulpit next Sunday?"

"That I can," asserted the preacher, "and that I'll gladly do for you."

"It will be such a satisfaction!" said the farmer. "I shall be sure to remember Father with a couple of fat geese for Thanksgiving. Next Sunday Father will see me in church, and I'll be sure to keep awake and listen to Father's speech on the thief. Don't spare him, Father."

"Certainly not, Timmy," answered Jonas. "Leave that to me. That fellow will get exactly what he deserves."

On the following Sunday Timmy Timmylim went early to church. Father Jonas preached with great force against stealing and robbing, and finally mentioned that somewhere in the village there was a scoundrel who had robbed Timmy Timmylim, their friend and brother, of a very valuable article. He considered it fitting and proper to call down divine punishment over the thief, unknown as he was, the congregation having no other means of reaching him. If it were not for a certain reason, known only to himself, he might consult certain books and discover the name of the culprit.

In a tone trembling with zeal and fervor, the preacher concluded thus:

"Oh, Heavenly Father, friend divine,
Condemn the one (softly) who threw the line,
And punish him as best you like.
(Softly) Oh, bless thou him who stole the pike!"

"Amen!" gravely added Timmy Timmylim, from his seat somewere down the aisle, in great emotion.