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The Beggar's Presents

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

There was once a very poor man, who went into the wood to fell trees for
his own use. The sweat ran down his cheeks, from his hard work, when all
at once an old beggar appeared and asked for alms. The poor man pitied
him very much, and, putting his axe on the ground, felt in his bag, and,
with sincere compassion, shared his few bits of bread with the poor old
beggar. The latter, having eaten his bread, spoke thus to the
wood-cutter: "My son, here! for your kindness accept this table-cloth,
and whenever hereafter you feel need and are hungry, say to the cloth,
'Spread thyself, little cloth,' and your table will be laid, and covered
with the best meats and drinks. I am the rewarder of all good deeds, and
I give this to you for your benevolence." Thereupon the old man
disappeared, and the wood-cutter turned homewards in great joy.

Having been overtaken by night on his way, he turned into a hostelry,
and informed the innkeeper, who was an old acquaintance, of his good
fortune; and, in order to give greater weight to his word, he at once
made a trial of the table-cloth, and provided a jolly good supper for
the innkeeper and his wife, from the dainty dishes that were served up
on the cloth. After supper he laid down on the bench to sleep, and, in
the meantime, the wicked wife of the innkeeper hemmed a similar cloth,
and by the morning exchanged it for that of the woodcutter. He,
suspecting nothing, hurried home with the exchanged cloth, and, arriving
there, told his wife what had happened; and, to prove his words, at once
gave orders to the cloth to spread itself; but all in vain. He repeated
at least a hundred times the words "Little cloth, spread thyself," but
the cloth never moved; and the simpleton couldn't understand it. Next
day he again went to the wood, where he again shared his bread with the
old beggar, and received from him a lamb, to which he had only to say,
"Give me gold, little lamb," and the gold coins at once began to rain.
With this the woodcutter again went to the inn for the night, and showed
the present to the innkeeper, as before. Next morning he had another
lamb to take home, and was very much surprised that it would not give
the gold for which he asked. He went to the wood again, and treated the
beggar well, but also told him what had happened to the table-cloth and
lamb. The beggar was not at all surprised, and gave him a club, and said
to him, "If the innkeeper has changed your cloth and lamb, you can
regain them by means of this club: you have only to say, 'Beat away,
beat away, my little club,' and it will have enough power to knock down
a whole army." So the woodcutter went to the inn a third time, and
insisted upon his cloth and lamb being returned; and, as the innkeeper
would not do so, he exclaimed, "Beat away, beat away, my little club!"
and the club began to beat the innkeeper and his wife, till the missing
property was returned.

He then went home and told his wife, with great joy, what had happened;
and, in order to give greater consequence to his house, he invited the
king to dinner next day. The king was very much surprised, and, about
noon, sent a lackey to see what they were cooking for him; the
messenger, however, returned with the news that there was not even a
fire in the kitchen. His majesty was still more surprised when, at
meal-time, he found the table laden with the finest dishes and drinks.
Upon inquiry where all came from, the poor woodcutter told him his
story, what happened in the wood, about the lamb and cloth, but did not
mention a word about the club. The king, who was a regular tyrant, at
once claimed the cloth and the lamb; and, as the man would not comply,
he sent a few lackeys to him, to take them away; but they were soon
knocked down by the club. So the king sent a larger force against him;
but they also perished to a man. On hearing this the king got into a
great rage, and went in person with his whole army against him; but on
this occasion, too, the woodcutter was victorious, because the club
knocked down dead every one of the king's soldiers; the king himself
died on the battle-field and his throne was occupied by the once poor
woodcutter. It was a real blessing to his people; because, in his
magnanimity, he delighted to assist all whom he knew to be in want or
distress; and so he, also, lived a happy and contented man to the end of
his days!

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