The Brothers Grimm – Clever Elsie

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There was once a man who had a daughter who was called clever
elsie. And when she had grown up her father said, we will get
her married. Yes, said the mother, if only someone would come who
would have her. At length a man came from a distance and wooed
her, who was called Hans, but he stipulated that clever elsie
should be really smart. Oh, said the father, she has plenty of
good sense. And the mother said, oh, she can see the wind coming
up the street, and hear the flies coughing.

Well, said Hans, if she is not really smart, I won't have her.
When they were sitting at dinner and had eaten, the mother said,
elsie, go into the cellar and fetch some beer. Then clever elsie
took the pitcher from the wall, went into the cellar, and tapped
the lid briskly as she went, so that the time might not appear
long. When she was below she fetched herself a chair, and set
it before the barrel so that she had no need to stoop, and did
not hurt her back or do herself any unexpected injury. Then she
placed the can before her, and turned the tap, and while the
beer was running she would not let her eyes be idle, but looked
up at the wall, and after much peering here and there, saw a
pick-axe exactly above her, which the masons had accidentally
left there.

Then clever elsie began to weep, and said, if I get Hans, and we
have a child, and he grows big, and we send him into the cellar
here to draw beer, then the pick-axe will fall on his head and
kill him. Then she sat and wept and screamed with all the strength
of her body, over the misfortune which lay before her. Those
upstairs waited for the drink, but clever elsie still did not
come. Then the woman said to the servant, just go down into the
cellar and see where elsie is. The maid went and found her
sitting in front of the barrel, screaming loudly. Elsie, why do
you weep, asked the maid. Ah, she answered, have I not reason
to weep. If I get Hans, and we have a child, and he grows big,
and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe will perhaps fall on his
head, and kill him. Then said the maid, what a clever elsie we
have. And sat down beside her and began loudly to weep over the
misfortune. After a while, as the maid did not come back, those
upstairs were thirsty for the beer, the man said to the boy, just
go down into the cellar and see where elsie and the girl are.

The boy went down, and there sat clever elsie and the girl both
weeping together. Then he asked, why are you weeping, ah, said
elsie, have I not reason to weep. If I get Hans, and we have a
child, and he grows big, and has to draw beer here, the pick-axe
will fall on his head and kill him. Then said the boy, what a
clever elsie we have. And sat down by her, and likewise began
to howl loudly. Upstairs they
waited for the boy, but as he still did not return, the man said
to the woman, just go down into the cellar and see where elsie is.

The woman went down, and found all three in the midst of their
lamentations, and inquired what was the cause, then elsie told
her also that her future child was to be killed by the pick-axe,
when it grew big and had to draw beer, and the pick-axe fell
down. Then said the mother likewise, what a clever elsie we have.
And sat down and wept with them. The man upstairs waited a short
time, but as his wife did not come back and his thirst grew ever
greater, he said, I must go into the cellar myself and see where
elsie is. But when he got into the cellar, and they were all
sitting together crying, and he heard the reason, and that elsie's
child was the cause, and that elsie might perhaps bring one into
the world some day, and that he might be killed by the
pick-axe, if he should happen to be sitting beneath it, drawing
beer just at the very time when it fell down, he cried, oh,
what a clever elsie. And sat down, and likewise wept with them.

The bridegroom stayed upstairs alone for a long time, then as
no one would come back he thought, they must be waiting for me
below, I too must go there and see what they are about. When he
got down, the five of them were sitting screaming and lamenting
quite piteously, each out-doing the other. What misfortune has
happened then, he asked. Ah, dear Hans, said elsie, if we marry
each other and have a child, and he is big, and we perhaps send
him here to draw something to drink, then the pick-axe which has
been left up there might dash his brains out if it were to fall
down, so have we not reason to weep. Come, said Hans, more
understanding than that is not needed for my household, as you
are such a clever elsie, I will have you. And he seized her
hand, took her upstairs with him, and married her.

After Hans had had her some time, he said, wife, I am going
out to work and earn some money for us, go into the field and cut
the corn that we may have some bread. Yes, dear Hans, I will do
that. After Hans had gone away, she cooked herself some good
broth and took it into the field with her. When she came to the
field she said to herself, what shall I do, shall I cut first, or
shall I eat first. Oh, I will eat first. Then she drank her cup
of broth, and when she was fully satisfied, she once more said,
what shall I do. Shall I cut first, or shall I sleep first. I
will sleep first. Then she lay down among the corn and fell
asleep. Hans had been at home for a long time, but elsie did not
come, then said he, what a clever elsie I have, she is so
industrious that she does not even come home to eat. But when
evening came and she still stayed away, Hans went out to see what
she had cut, but nothing was cut, and she was lying among the
corn asleep. Then Hans hastened home and brought a fowler's net
with little bells and hung it round about her, and she still
went on sleeping. Then he ran home, shut the house-door, and sat
down in his chair and worked. At length, when it was quite dark,
clever elsie awoke and when she got up there was a jingling all
round about her, and the bells rang at each step which she took.
Then she was alarmed, and became uncertain whether she really was
clever elsie or not, and said, is it I, or is it not I. But she
knew not what answer to make to this, and stood for a time in
doubt, at length she thought, I will go home and ask if it be I,
or if it be not I, they will be sure to know. She ran to the door
of her own house, but it was shut, then she knocked at the
window and cried, Hans, is elsie within. Yes, answered Hans, she
is within. Hereupon she was terrified, and said, ah, heavens.
Then it is not I. And went to another door, but when the people
heard the jingling of the bells they would not open it, and she
could get in nowhere. Then she ran out of the village, and no
one has seen her since.

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