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The Hussar And The Servant Girl

Source: The Folk-tales Of The Magyars

The wife of a priest in olden times, it may have been in the
antediluvian world, put all the plates, dishes, and milk-jugs into a
basket and sent the servant to wash them in the brook. While the girl
was washing she saw a cray-fish crawl out of the water, and, as she had
never seen one in her life before, she stood staring at it, and was a
little frightened. It so happened that a hussar rode past on horseback,
and the girl asked him, "Would you mind telling me, my gallant horseman,
what sort of a God's wonder that yonder is?" "Well, my sister," said the
soldier, "that is a cray-fish." The servant then took courage, and went
near the cray-fish to look at it, and said, "But it crawls!" "But it's a
cray-fish," said the soldier again. "But it crawls," said the servant
abruptly. "But it's a cray-fish," said the soldier a third time. "Well,
my gallant horseman, how can you stand there and tell me that, when I
can see that it crawls?" said the servant. "But, my sister, how can you
stand there and tell me, when I can see that it's a cray-fish?" said the
soldier. "Well, I'm neither blind nor a fool, and I can see quite well
that it's a-crawling," said the servant. "But neither am I blind nor a
fool, and I can see that it is a cray-fish," said the soldier.

The servant got so angry that she dashed her crockery to the ground and
broke it into fragments, crying, in a great rage, "May I perish here if
it is not a-crawling!" The hussar jumped off his saddle, drew his sword,
and cut off his horse's head, saying, "May the executioner cut off my
neck like this if it isn't a cray-fish!" The soldier went his way on
foot, and the servant went home without her ware, and the priest's wife
asked, "Well, where are all the pots?" The servant told her what had
happened between the soldier and her about a cray-fish and a-crawling.
"Is that the reason why you have done all the damage?" said the priest's
wife. "Oh, mistress, how could I give in when I saw quite well that it
was a-crawling; and still that nasty soldier kept on saying it was a
cray-fish?" The wife of the priest was heating the oven, as she was
going to bake, and she got into such a rage that she seized her new fur
jacket, for which she had given a hundred florins, and pitched it into
the oven, saying, "May the flames of the fire burn me like this if you
were not both great fools!" "What is all this smell of burning?" asked
the priest, coming in. Learning what had happened about a cray-fish and
a-crawling, he took his gown and cut it up on the threshold with a
hatchet, saying, "May the executioner cut me into bits like this if the
three of you are not fools!" Then came the schoolmaster (his calf had
got loose and run into the clergyman's yard, and he had come after it to
drive it home): and, hearing what had happened, and why, he caught hold
of a stick, and struck his calf such a blow on the head that it fell
down dead on the spot, exclaiming, "If God will, may the fiery
thunderbolt thus strike me dead if you all four are not fools!"

Then came the churchwarden, and asked what had happened there, and when
he was told he got into such a rage that he picked up the church-box and
dashed it on the ground in the middle of the yard, so that the box was
broken to pieces, and the precious altar-covers and linen were rolling
about on the dirty ground, saying, "May I perish like this, at this very
hour, if the whole five of you are not fools!"

In the meantime the sacristan came in, and, seeing the linen on the
floor, he threw up his hands and said, "Well, I never! whatever's the
matter?" Then they told him what had happened, and why, whereupon he
picked up all the covers and linen and tore them into shreds, saying,
"May the devil tear me to atoms like this if you six are not a parcel of
raving lunatics!"

News of the event soon got abroad, and the whole congregation gathered
together and set the priest's house on fire, crying, "May the flames of
the fire burn us all like this, every one of us, if all the seven were
not fools!"

[1] The zest of this tale turns upon a similarity in the sound of the
words in Magyar for "cray-fish," and "crawling."

Next: My Father's Wedding

Previous: The Children Of Two Rich Men

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