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Fisher Joe

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once a poor man, who had nothing in the world but his wife and
an unhappy son Joe. His continual and his only care was how to keep
them: so he determined to go fishing, and thus to keep them from day to
day upon whatever the Lord brought to his net. Suddenly both the old
folks died and left the unhappy son by himself; he went behind the oven
and did not come out till both father and mother were buried; he sat
three days behind the oven, and then remembered that his father had kept
them by fishing; so he got up, took his net, and went fishing below the
weir: there he fished till the skin began to peel off the palms of his
hands, and never caught so much as one fish. At last he said, "I will
cast my net once more, and then I will never do so again." So he cast
his net for the last time and drew to shore a golden fish. While he was
going home he thought he would give it to the lord of the manor, so that
perhaps he might grant a day's wages for it. When he got home he took
down a plate from the rack, took the fish from his bag, and laid it upon
the plate; but the fish slipped off the plate and changed into a lovely
girl, who said, "I am thine, and you are mine, love." The moment after
she asked, "Joe, did your father leave you anything?" "We had
something," replied her husband; "but my father was poor and he sold
everything; but," continued he, "do you see that high mountain yonder?
it is not sold yet, for it is too steep and no one would have it." Then
said his wife, "Let's go for a walk and look over the mountain." So they
went all over it, length and breadth, from furrow to furrow. When they
came to a furrow in the middle his wife said, "Let us sit down on a
ridge, my love, and rest a little." They sat down, and Joe laid his head
on his wife's lap and fell asleep. She then slipped off her cloak, made
it into a pillow, drew herself away, and laid Joe upon the pillow
without waking him. She rose, went away, uncoiled a large whip and
cracked it. The crack was heard over seven times seven countries. In a
moment as many dragons as existed came forth. "What are your Majesty's
commands?" said they. "My commands are these," replied she: "you see
this place--build a palace here, finer than any that exists in the
world; and whatever is needed in it must be there: stables for eight
bullocks and the bullocks in them, with two men to tend them; stalls for
eight horses and the horses in them, and two grooms to tend them; six
stacks in the yard, and twelve threshers in the barn." She was greatly
delighted when she saw her order completed, and thanked God that He had
given her what He had promised. "I shall now go," said she, "and wake my
husband." When she came to him he was still asleep. "Get up, my love,"
said she, "look after the threshers, the grooms, the oxen, and see that
all do their work, and that all the work be done, and give your orders
to the labourers; and now, my love, let us go into the house and see
that all is right. You give your orders to the men-servants, and I will
give mine to the maids. We have now enough to live on;" and Joe thanked
God for His blessings. He then told his wife that he would invite the
lord of the manor to dine with him on Whit Sunday. "Don't leave me,"
replied his wife; "for if he catch sight of me you will lose me. I will
see that the table is laid and all is ready; but a maid shall wait on
you. I will retire into an inner room lest he should see me."

Joe ordered the carriage and six, seated himself in it, the coachman sat
on the box, and away they went to the lord's house; they arrived at the
gate, Joe got out, went through the gate, and saw three stonemasons at
work in the yard; he greeted them and they returned the greeting. "Just
look," remarked one of them, "what Joe has become and how miserable he
used to be!" He entered the castle, and went into the lord's room. "Good
day, my lord." "God bless you, Joe, what news?" "I have come to ask your
lordship to dine with me on Whit Sunday, and we shall be very pleased to
see you." "I will come, Joe;" they then said good-bye and parted. After
Joe had gone the lord came into the courtyard, and the three masons
asked him "What did Joe want?" "He has invited me to dine with him," was
the reply, "and I am going." "Of course; you must go," said one of
them, "that you may see what sort of a house he keeps."

The lord set out in his carriage and four, with the coachman in front,
and arrived at the palace. Joe ran out to meet him, they saluted each
other, and entered arm in arm. They dined, and all went well till the
lord asked, "Well, Joe, and where is your wife?" "She is busy," said
Joe. "But I should like to see her," explained the baron. "She is rather
shy when in men's society," said Joe. They enjoyed themselves, lighted
their pipes and went for a walk over the palace. Then said the baron to
his servant, "Order the carriage at once;" it arrived, and Joe and he
said "Farewell." As the baron went through the gate he looked back and
saw Joe's wife standing at one of the windows, and at once fell so
deeply in love with her that he became dangerously ill; when he arrived
at home the footmen were obliged to carry him from his carriage and lay
him in his bed.

At daybreak the three masons arrived and began to work. They waited for
their master. As he did not appear, "I will go and see what's the matter
with him," said one of them, "for he always came out at 8 a.m." So the
mason went in and saluted the baron, but got no reply. "You are ill, my
lord," said he. "I am," said the baron, "for Joe has such a pretty wife,
and if I can't get her I shall die." The mason went out and the three
consulted together as to what was best to be done. One of them proposed
a task for Joe, i.e. that a large stone column which stood before one
of the windows should be pulled down, the plot planted with vines, the
grapes to ripen over night, and the next morning a goblet of wine should
be made from their juice and be placed on the master's table; if this
was not done Joe was to lose his wife. So one of them went in to the
baron and told him of their plan, remarking that Joe could not do that,
and so he would lose his wife. A groom was sent on horseback for Joe,
who came at once, and asked what his lordship desired. The baron then
told him the task he had to propose and the penalty. Poor Joe was so
downcast that he left without even saying "good-bye," threw himself into
his carriage, and went home. "Well, my love," asked his wife, "what does
he want?" "Want," replied her husband, "he ordered me to pull down the
stone column in front of his window. Since my father was not a
working-man, how could I do any work? Nor is that all. I am to plant the
place with vines, the grapes have to ripen, and I am to make a goblet of
wine, to be placed on his table at daybreak; and if I fail I am to lose

"Your smallest trouble ought to be greater than that," said his wife.
"Eat and drink, go to bed and have a good rest, and all will be well."
When night came she went out into the farmyard, uncoiled her whip, gave
a crack, which was heard over seven times seven countries, and
immediately all the dragons appeared. "What are your Majesty's
commands?" She then told them what her husband required, and in the
morning Joe had the goblet of wine, which he took on horseback lest he
should be late; he opened the baron's window, and, as nobody was there,
he placed the goblet on the table, closed the window, and returned home.

At daybreak the baron turned in his bed. The bright light reflected by
the goblet met his eyes, and had such an effect on him that he fell back
in his bed, and got worse and worse.

The three masons arrived and wondered why their master did not appear.
Said the tallest to the middle one, "I taught him something yesterday;
now you must teach him something else." "Well," said the middle one, "my
idea is this, that Joe shall build a silver bridge in front of the gate
during the night, plant both ends with all kinds of trees, and that the
trees be filled with all kinds of birds singing and twittering in the
morning. I'll warrant he won't do that, and so he will lose his wife."
When the baron came out they communicated their plan; he at once sent
for Joe and told him what he required. Joe went away without even
saying good-bye, he was so sad. When he got home he told his wife what
the baron wanted this time. "Don't trouble yourself, my love," said his
wife, "eat and drink and get a good rest, all shall be well." At night
she cracked her whip and ordered the dragons to do all that was
required, and so at daybreak all was done. The birds made such a noise
that the whole of the village was awakened by them. One nightingale
loudly and clearly to the baron sang, "Whatever God has given to some
one else that you must not covet; be satisfied with what has been given
to you." The baron awoke and turned over, and, hearing the loud singing
of the birds, rose and looked out of the window. The glare of the silver
bridge opposite the gate blinded him, and he fell back in bed and got
worse and worse. When the three masons arrived they could not enter, for
the splendour of the silver bridge dazzled them, and they were obliged
to enter by another gate.

As they were working, the shortest said to the middle one, "Go and see
why his lordship does not come out; perhaps he is worse." He went in and
found the baron worse than ever. Then said the shortest, "I thought of
something, my lord, which he will never be able to do, and so you will
get his wife." "What is that, mason?" demanded the baron. "It is this,
my lord," said the mason, "that he shall ask God to dinner on Palm
Sunday, and that he can't do, and so he will lose his wife." "If you can
get Joe's wife for me you shall have all this property," said the baron.
"It's ours, then," said they, "for he can't do that." Joe was sent for,
and came at once to know what was required of him. "My orders are
these," replied the baron, "that you invite God to dinner on Palm Sunday
to my house; if you do not your wife is lost." Poor Joe went out without
saying good-bye, jumped into his carriage, and returned home dreadfully
miserable. When his wife asked him what was the matter he told her of
the baron's commands. "Go on," said his wife; "bring me that foal, the
yearling, the most wretched one of all, put upon it an old saddle and
silver harness on its head, and then get on its back." He did so, said
good-bye, and the wretched yearling darted off at once straight to
heaven. By the time it arrived there it had become quite a beautiful
horse. When Joe reached the gates of Paradise he tied his horse to a
stake, knocked at the door, which opened, and he went in and greeted the
Almighty. St. Peter received him, and asked him why he had come. "I've
come," said he, "to invite God to dinner at my lord's on Palm Sunday."
"Tell him from me," said the deity, "that I will come, and tell him that
he is to sow a plot with barley, and that it will ripen, and that I will
eat bread made of it at dinner. That a cow is to be taken to the bull
to-day, and that I will eat the flesh of the calf for my dinner."

With this Joe took leave, and the foal flew downward. As they went Joe
was like to fall head-foremost off, and called upon the deity. St. Peter
told him not to fear, it was all right; he would fall on his feet. When
Joe arrived at home the barley was waving in the breeze and the cow was
in calf. "Well, wife," said he, "I will go to the baron's and give him
the message." So he went, knocked at the door, and entered the room.
"Don't come a step further," cried the baron. "I don't intend to," said
Joe: "I've come to tell you I have executed your commands, and mind you
don't blame me for what will happen. The deity has sent you this
message: you are to sow a plot with barley, and of it make bread for His
dinner. A cow is to go to the bull, and of the calf's flesh He will
eat." The baron became thoughtful. "Don't worry yourself, my lord," said
Joe, "you have worried me enough, it is your turn now;" and so he said
"good-bye," and went off home: when he got there the barley-bread was
baking and the veal was roasting.

At this moment the deity and St. Peter arrived from heaven and were on
their way to the baron's, who the moment he saw them called out to his
servant, "Lock the gate, and do not let them in." Then said the deity,
"Let us go back to the poor man's home, and have dinner there." When
they reached the foot of the mountain St. Peter was told to look back
and say what he saw, and lo! the whole of the baron's property was a
sheet of water. "Now," said the deity to St. Peter, "let us go on, for
the mountain is high, and difficult to ascend." When they arrived at
Joe's he rushed out with outspread arms, fell to the ground, and kissed
the sole of the deity's foot. He entered and sat down to dinner, so did
Joe and his wife and also St. Peter. Then said God to Joe, "Set a table
in this world for the poor and miserable, and you shall have one laid
for you in the world to come; and now good-bye: you shall live in joy,
and in each other's love."

They are living still if they have not died since. May they be your
guests to-morrow!

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