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The Tailor and the Wolves,

Translated from the German

Ever so long ago there lived a tailor's apprentice, a merry, light-hearted fellow, but with a large hump, so that he always looked like a country-woman going to market on a Saturday, carrying her goods on her back.

One night, as he was returning from some festivity in the town, he had to go through a thick wood, in which it was so dark that he could not see his hand before his face. As he was dawdling along quite merrily, and whistling the tune of the last waltz that he had danced, he lost his way, and fell into a deep pit, so that sight and hearing forsook him, and he gave himself up for lost. But when he found out that he was unhurt after the fall, he began to cry pitiably and to call for help, till he suddenly heard talking not far off.

In the pit, which sloped sideways far down into the earth, lived a large wolf with his wife and two little ones, and when they had heard the tailor's fall and screams, the old wolf said, joyfully, to his wife,

"Be quick, my dear, hang the pot over the fire; I think we shall have something good to-night."

These words reached the ears of the tailor, who, in the deepest anxiety for his life, became as still as a mouse.

But the wolf opened the door of his den, put a lamp in his paw, and peered all round till he had discovered the tailor, whom he then seized by the legs, and, without more ado, dragged into his sitting-room.

When he was about to be killed, the poor fellow cried and bemoaned himself in such a heart-rending manner that the wife, who was a good soul, put in a word for him to her husband.

"Well, then," said the wolf, "he may live, but he must never return to men, or he would betray us; he must stay here and become a wolf."

"Most joyfully," said the tailor, "for I would rather live as a wolf than be cooked and eaten as a man."

Whereupon the wolf fetched one of his old furs out of the cupboard, and his wife had to sew the tailor into it.

So the tailor staid with them, soon learned to howl perfectly, and to walk on all fours; besides which, he became quite expert in catching rabbits.

One day, when they had all gone out hunting together, it happened that the King of the same land was also hunting in the wood. As soon as the hunters came near the wolves, they and the tailor took to their heels.

They ran into a neighboring thicket, and hid themselves behind some bushes, when the old wolf whispered to the others to keep quiet, without fear, for he had seen no dogs, and without their help no huntsmen would find them.

He spoke truly, for it so happened that a wild boar had killed every single dog.

Then it occurred to the King to take a pinch of snuff; after which he sneezed violently.

The tailor, who had not yet lost his knowledge of polite ways, said, respectfully, "Your health, sire!"

When the King heard these words he rode toward the bush, and all his huntsmen followed him.

Here they perceived the wolves, and the King and his companions set up a loud shout of joy. They threw their spears so well that only the old wolf could escape; and the tailor was the last to be seen, because he had hidden himself so well, but before the huntsmen could aim at him, he had rolled himself, howling piteously, toward the King, saying,

"I beg your pardon, sire; I am really a tailor's apprentice, and only by accident among the wolves."

Then they all began to laugh, and a huntsman cut him out of his skin. A horse also was brought, that he might ride by the King's side and relate his tale.

"Tailor," then said the King, very graciously, "you have caused me much amusement, and if you like you may remain with me."

This speech pleased the little man right well, and he rode straight away to the castle, where he lived in joy and luxury for some time, as the King's court and private tailor.

But the old wolf, who had escaped with his life, felt raging anger against all human beings, especially toward the tailor, who had been the cause of the death of his wife and children, and he determined to revenge himself.

So he lay continually on the watch, and any man who appeared in his sight was a child of death. The whole land was full of grief and sorrow, for hardly a day passed in which at least one human being did not meet with a sorrowful end in the grip of the fierce old wolf.

But he said, "It is not yet enough; they must all come to it; and the tailor shall suffer the most for bringing about the death of my wife and children, because he could not hold his tongue."

Saying which he went to the castle, where the tailor was just looking out of the window smoking a pipe.

"Fellow!" said the wolf, "you must die, or I can not rest."

Terror seized the little man, and he told the King what the wolf had threatened.

"Wait, tailor," answered the King; "it is now high time that we should catch this wretch, even if it costs me my only daughter. He has not even respect for the court tailor; so what will such conduct lead to? And besides, he is eating up all my subjects, which I can not allow; for if I have no subjects, I can no longer be a king."

He spoke, and caused it to be proclaimed through the whole land that he who brought the wolf alive should be his son-in-law.

The tailor had not dared to leave the castle for days, for fear of the monster; but at length he could sit still no longer, and went into the garden one bright summer's day. Suddenly the wolf sprang from behind a tree, caught the poor fellow by the tail of his coat, and dragged him far into the wood, in spite of all his wriggling and screaming.

"Rascal of a tailor!" said he; "you have brought me into misery, therefore you must die."

Then, in his dire need, a cunning, artful idea occurred to the tailor, and he exclaimed, "Look! there come the huntsmen!" and as the wolf turned round in alarm, the tailor leaped on to his back, and held his hands tightly over the creature's eyes.

Then the wolf ran as he had never run in his life before, so that each moment he thought his hated rider must fall to the ground.

And as the creature could not see, the tailor guided him toward the castle, to an open stable door; there got down, pushed him into one of the stalls, and then bolted the door on the outside.

The King was highly delighted that the tailor was such a cunning fellow, and consented that the betrothal to his daughter should take place at once.

The wolf was hanged, and his skin, which the tailor received among his wedding gifts, has been preserved to the present day, and just now lies under the table, belonging to the author of this little tale.