The matter thus remained a good while under consideration, when one day they perceived that their milch cow which had been turned out to feed, did not return home at the close of the evening; they sought her all over the village, but as, notwithstanding their search, she was not to be found, Blockhead on the following day went to seek her in the surrounding villages.
On his return to the Mattam the third day, unable to discover her anywhere, he exclaimed with delight, "The cow, Sir, I cannot find: 'tis no matter, however, for I have met with a horse for us at a very low price.''
"How is that?" demanded the Gooroo with eagerness.
To which Blockhead replied, "When I was on my return, after I had been searching from village to village, from common to common, from enclosure to enclosure, in order to find the milch cow, I perceived four or five mares grazing and reposing on the bank of a large lake. As I went on farther I found, in a place which was near, a number of horses' eggs hanging down in every direction, which could not be encompassed by one's two arms. Upon enquiry of one who came up, he informed me that they were in truth horses' eggs, and that the price of each of them was only four or five pagodas. Here is a fine opportunity, Sir. We can thus, at an easy rate, obtain a high bred horse, and as for its docility, this will depend upon the manner in which we rear it and break it in."
They all consented to this proposition, and having united Idiot with him, delivered into their hands five pagodas, and despatched them forthwith on their journey.
After Blockhead and Idiot had set out, in the manner just mentioned, to purchase the horse's egg, Fool thus threw out a doubt. "Grant that the egg of a high bred courser be obtained, still when obtained, it is only after having been sat upon that it will be hatched; but who in the world is to hatch it I am sure I do not know. He says that it is not to be encompassed by one's two arms: though then we were to keep ten hens together upon it, they could not even stand upon it, much less cover it. Tell us then how we arc to manage in this business."
On hearing what he said, they all stared at each other with astonishment, and without opening their mouths, remained speechless.
After a considerable pause, the Gooroo addressed himself separately to each of the three who were present, saying, "I see no other way but that one of us should sit on it."
Upon this each made his excuses.
"It is my business," says one, "to go daily to the river and fetch all the water that is wanted, as also to go to the jungle and procure canes for firewood, how therefore can I possibly hatch it?"
Says another, "After remaining night and day without intermission in the kitchen, dressing rice, cooking all kinds of curries, making fancy cakes and boiling water, for everybody, thus killing myself at the stoves, how can the hatching be performed by me?"
Says another, "Before daybreak I go to the river, and after having cleansed my teeth, rinsed my mouth, washed my face, purified my hands and feet, and completed all my ceremonies according to the rules, I have to go round the flower gardens, cull the new buds, bring them hither with due respect, tie long garlands, strew flowers over different idols, at the same time worshipping them, and daily assist at the Poojei of the deity. Such is my business; is it not? With all this, how can I hatch it?"
To this the Gooroo replied, ''This is all quite true; neither can it be accomplished by the other two who are gone away; for one of them has more business than he can finish, in making enquiries respecting those who come and go, in giving answers to the questions which they propose, and in hearing and settling the disputes which are brought before him. Finally, Blockhead, on all occasions when we wish to transact any business, is he not the person who goes to the shops, to the fairs and to the villages? It is very true, therefore, that you must follow those occupations which constantly require your attention. For my part, am I not here doing nothing? I will place the egg in my lap, embrace it with my arms, cover it with the skirt of my cloth, hug it in my bosom, guard it with tenderness, and thus hatch it. It is enough if we do but produce the horse, we will not regard the trouble which is to be endured."
Whilst all this deliberation was taking place in the Mattam, Blockhead and Idiot, who had set out in the third watch with the rising moon, after a journey of more than two kadams and a half, bent their course towards the mark which they had before seen and noticed, and arrived at the borders of the lake where there was an abundance of pumpkins in fruit.
On perceiving this, being greatly delighted, they went to the countryman who was attending there and entreated him, saying, "Master, we earnestly conjure you to give us one of these eggs."
He, in his turn, seeing their idiotism, said, "Hey-day! do you suppose yourselves fit to buy such high bred horses' eggs as these? They are very costly indeed."
To this they replied, "Go to Master, do we not know that five pagodas is the price of them? Look ye, friend, take your five pagodas and give us a good egg."
To this he answered, ''You are, to be sure, fine honest fellows. In consideration of your good qualities, I consent to give them to you at this price; select therefore an egg to your liking, and go your ways, but do not publish it abroad that you have obtained it at this easy rate."
They both of them selected and took away a fruit which was larger than all the rest, and rising early the next morning, they set out on their journey just as the day was breaking.
Blockhead having carefully taken the egg and lifted it on his head, the other went before shewing the way, and while they were thus going along, Blockhead began to say, "Ay, ay, our forefathers have said, They who perform penance, are forwarding their own affairs. We have now seen the proof of this with our own eyes. This in truth is the profit which has accrued by the penance continually performed by our Gooroo. A high bred horse, which is worth a hundred or a hundred and fifty pagodas, we purchase and take to him for five."
To which Idiot replied, "Needs this any reflection? Hast thou not heard the saying -- From pious actions alone proceeds delight; all else is irrelevant and unworthy of praise. From virtue, not only profit, but pleasure proceeds; except there be virtue, all else will be misery and disgrace. Did not my father for a long time practise many virtues; and he found his profit and delight in the end, in having me born to him."
To which the other replied, "Can this be doubted? If you sow a castor oil tree, will an ebony tree he produced? From good actions, good will proceed, from evil actions, evil."
Thus conversing, after they had walked along for a considerable distance, the pumpkin, from striking against the bough of a tree which was bent and hanging down, was dashed out of his hands, and suddenly tumbling upon some shrubs which were spreading in bushes below, cracked and fell to pieces.
Upon this, a hare which was sitting in the bushes started up and ran away. Taking the alarm, they cried out, ''Behold! The horse's foal which was in the shell has run away;" and followed after to catch and seize it.
Running, regardless of hills or dales, or woods or commons, the clothes which they had on became entangled in the thorny bushes, and were partly torn and partly detained. They continued the pursuit, with their flesh lacerated by the stumps which they trod on, their blood flowing in consequence of the thorns which stuck into them, their bodies all streaming with perspiration, their hearts beating, their two ears closed, puffing and blowing with fatigue, and their bowels jolting; notwithstanding which, the hare was not caught, and they both fell down, wearied out and harassed with fatigue.
In the meantime the hare went on, and becoming concealed, so as no longer to be kept in sight, it ran away to a great distance. They too, regardless of their weariness, rose up, and with legs limping and wounded by thorns, stones and stumps, searched in every direction. Journeying in this afflicted condition, they suffered hunger and fasting all that day, and after sunset arrived at the Mattam.
When they entered in at the gate, they smote their mouths, crying, "Alas! Alas!" and beating themselves, fell down.
"What is it? What is it? What harm has come to you?" demanded the rest; who came, and, taking them by the hand, raised them up. After the two had related in detail all the circumstances that had happened.
Blockhead spoke as follows: "O Sir, since the day that I was born, I never beheld so swift a horse as this: of an ash colour, mixed with black; in form and size like a hare, and a cubit in length. Although a foal still in the nest, it pricked up its two ears, cocked its tail, which rose up the length of two fingers, extended and stretched forth its four legs, and with its heart close to the ground, ran with a swiftness and impetuosity which can neither be expressed nor conceived."
Upon this they were all bewailing, when the Gooroo appeasing them, said, "True indeed, the five pagodas are gone, but however, it is well that the horse's foal is gone also; if whilst a foal it runs in this manner, when hereafter it shall become full grown, who will be able to ride upon it? I truly am an old man: a horse of this description, my friends, although it were presented to me gratis, I would not accept."
"Eggs of other birds there are," he said, "and I have seen them; but what bird's eggs are these eggs? These must be mare's eggs."
So he looked at the grain-seller, and said: "Are these eggs mare's eggs?"
The man instantly cocked his ears; and perceiving that he was a simpleton, answered: "Yes, these eggs are mare's eggs."
"What is the price?" inquired the countryman.
"One hundred rupees apiece," said the grain-seller.
The simple weaver took out his bag of money, and, counting out the price, bought one of the melons and carried it off.
As he went along the road, he began to say to himself: "When I get home I will put this egg in a warm corner of my house, and by-and-by a foal will be born, and when the foal is big enough, I shall mount it and ride to the house of my father-in-law. Won't he be astonished?"
As the day, however, was unusually hot, he stopped at a pool of water to bathe. But first of all he deposited the melon most carefully in the middle of a low bush, and then he proceeded to undress himself. His garments were not half laid aside, when out from the bush sprang a hare, and the weaver, snatching up part of his clothing while the rest hung about his legs in disorder, made desperate efforts to chase and overtake the hare, crying out: "Ah, there goes my foal! Wo, old boy -- wo, wo!"
But he ran in vain, for the hare easily escaped, and was soon out of sight. The poor weaver reconciled himself to his loss as best he could.
"Kismet!" cried he; "and as for the egg, it is of course of no use now, and not worth returning for, since the foal has left it."
So he made the best of his way home, and said to his wife: "O wife, I have had a great loss this day.
"Why," said she, "what have you done?"
"I paid one hundred rupees for a mare's egg," replied he; "but while I stopped on the road to bathe, the foal jumped out and ran away."
"Ah, what a pity!" cried the wife; "if you had only brought the foal here, I would have got on his back, and ridden him to my father's house!"
Hearing this, the weaver fell into a rage, and, pulling a stick out of his loom, began to belabour his wife, saying: "What! you would break the back of a young foal? Ah! you monster, let me break yours."
After this he went out, and began to lament his loss to his friends and neighbours, warning them all: "If any of you should see a stray foal, don't forget to let me know."
To the village herdsmen especially he related his wonderful story: how the foal came out of the egg, and ran away, and would perhaps be found grazing on the common-lands somewhere.
One or two of the farmers, however, to whom the tale was repeated, said: "What is this nonsense? Mares never have eggs. Where did you put this egg of yours?"
"I put my egg in a bush," said the weaver, near the tank on the way to the town."
"Come and show us!" cried the farmers.
"All right," assented the weaver; "come along."
When they arrived at the spot, the melon was found untouched in the middle of the bush.
"Here it is," cried the weaver; "here's my mare's egg. This is the thing out of which my foal jumped."
The farmers turned the melon over and over, and said: "But what part of this egg did the foal jump out of?"
So the weaver took the egg, and began to examine it.
"Out of this," cried one of the farmers, snatching back the melon, "no foal ever jumped. You are a simpleton, and you have been cheated! We'll show you what the foals are."
So he smashed the melon on a stone, and, giving the seeds to the weaver, said: "Here are foals enough for you;" while the farmers themselves, amid much laughter, sat down and ate up the delicious fruit.
"How much for the melon?" he asks.
"What will you give?" says the man.
"I have only got a hundred reals," answered the booby; "had I more, you should have it"
"Well," rejoined the man, "I'll take them."
Then the youth took the melon and handed over the money. "But tell me," says he, "will its young one be as green as it is?"
"Doubtless," answered the man," it will be green."
As the booby was going home, he allowed the melon to roll down a slope before him. It burst on its way, when up started a frightened hare.
"Go to my house, young one," he shouted. "Surely a green animal has come out of it."
And when he got home, he inquired of his mother if the young one had arrived.
Seeing the hare, the Hodja said: "I have done something stupid. The melon must have been pregnant, and that was a mule."
With that he turned to his wood-cutting. When he returned home he told his wife about his adventure.
She cried out: "Oh dear, husband, you should have caught it and brought it home! We could have ridden him to the garden!"
The Hodja picked up a stick and said: "Get off him! He is still too young! You'll break his ribs!"
Two cockneys, who had come down to stay a few days in the country, near Grately, on the borders of Hampshire and Wiltshire, met in their walk one morning an old man, who, my informant said, was "a droll old chap," and who happened to have a large pumpkin under his arm. The Londoners noticed that the old man was carrying something, though they could not quite make out what it was, and confident in their power as town-dwellers, they thought they would have a little joke at the old countryman's expense. So they opened fire.The story, told as it was in the purest Wiltshire dialect, was truly amusing.
"Good morning, master."
"Good marnin', zur."
"What is that you are carrying under your arm, friend?"
"'Tis a mare's egg, zur."
"Dear me," said the Londoners, not liking to own their ignorance, "it's the finest we ever saw."
"Ah, zur," said the old man, there's lots of common 'uns about, but this is a thoroughbred 'un, zur; that's what makes 'un look so vine."
"Will you sell it?" said the cockneys.
"Well," said the old man, "I doan't mind partin' wi' 'un, tho' I doan't s'pose you'll give the money I want for a thoroughbred mare's egg."
After some bargaining, the men put their hands into their pockets and paid what was asked.
The old man then handed over the pumpkin, and as he did so, looked at them very seriously, and said, "Now, mind, zur, and do 'ee take great care wi' 'un, for she'll hatch soon!"
Away went the Londoners with their mare's egg, and as they were crossing a hill just by Grately station, which my informant pointed out, the one who was carrying the prize stumbled over one of the juniper bushes with which the hill is dotted about, and dropped the pumpkin, starting at the same time a hare out of the bush.
In their excitement, and thinking, I suppose, that the fall had suddenly hastened the hatching, they shouted wildly to some men at work in a field at the bottom of the hill "Hi! Stop our colt! Stop our colt!"
It is, however, a curious illustration of the temptation to give an air of reality and a proportionately increased interest to an anecdote by assigning it to a particular person or locality. When I heard the story in the train, and saw my friend point out the very scene of it on the hill at Grately, I felt that I was receiving it fresh from the very fountain-head.
To my surprise, however, I found only the other day that the narrative in almost identical words was a favourite one of the father of one of my own parishioners, a Kentish man born and bred, who had been a resident all his life in his own county. I have since also been assured by a friend in the next parish, that her late husband's father, a Scotchman, living twenty miles beyond the border, used to tell this very same story with the greatest satisfaction. Where, therefore, it took its rise, and how it became known in districts so wide apart as Wiltshire, Kent, and the Lowlands of Scotland, are questions which I, at any rate, am not able to answer.
McAndrew was a lucky man, the neighbours all said; but as for himself, when he looked on his seven big sons growing up like weeds and with scarcely any more sense, he felt sore enough, for of all the stupid omadhauns, the seven McAndrew brothers were the stupidest.
. . .
The seven young McAndrews were as happy as could be until the fine old father fell sick and died.
The eldest son came in for all the father had, so he felt like a lord. To see him strut and swagger was a sight to make a grum growdy laugh.
One day, to show how fine he could be, he dressed in his best, and with a purse filled with gold pieces started off for the market town.
When he got there, in he walked to a public-house, and called for the best of everything, and to make a fine fellow of himself he tripled the price of everything to the landlord. As soon as he got through his eye suddenly caught sight of a little keg, all gilded over to look like gold, that hung outside the door for a sign. Con had never heeded it before, and he asked the landlord what it was.
Now the landlord, like many another, had it in mind that he might as well get all he could out of a McAndrew, and he answered quickly: "You stupid omadhaun, don't you know what that is? It's a mare's egg."
"And will a foal come out of it?"
"Of course; what a question to ask a dacent man!"
"I niver saw one before," said the amazed McAndrew.
"Well, ye see one now, Con, and take a good look at it."
"Will ye sell it?"
"Och, Con McAndrew, do ye think I want to sell that fine egg afther kaping it so long hung up there before the sun when it is ready to hatch out a foal that will be worth twenty good guineas to me?"
"I'll give ye twenty guineas for it," answered Con.
"Thin it's a bargain," said the landlord; and he took down the keg and handed it to Con, who handed out the twenty guineas, all the money he had.
"Be careful of it, and carry it as aisy as ye can, and when ye get home hang it up in the sun."
Con promised, and set off home with his prize.
Near the rise of a hill he met his brothers.
"What have ye, Con?"
"The most wonderful thing in the world -- a mare's egg."
"Faith, what is it like?" asked Pat, taking it from Con.
"Go aisy, can't ye? It's very careful ye have to be."
But the brothers took no heed to Con, and before one could say, "whist," away rolled the keg down the hill, while all seven ran after it; but before any one could catch it, it rolled into a clump of bushes, and in an instant out hopped a hare.
"Bedad, there's a foal," cried Con, and all seven gave chase; but there was no use trying to catch a hare.
"That's the foinest foal that ever was, if he was five year old the devil himself could not catch him," Con said; and with that the seven omadhauns gave up the chase and went quietly home.
The people of Kleinenberg were curious when they heard that, and asked if he would sell one to them. He said that he would be glad to do so, and then sold one to them for a large sum of money.
He also told them how to hatch it: They would have to sit on it without interruption. They did just that, faithfully taking turns. But no foal appeared.
Finally one of the sitters became impatient, stood up angrily, kicked against the egg with his foot, and cried out, "You cursed egg, won't you give it up?"
Now they had been sitting on the crest of a hill, and when he kicked agains the egg it rolled down into a bush where a hare was seated. The frighted hare ran off, and the Kleinenberger thought that it was his foal.
"Come back, Horsey!" he shouted.
But Horsey the Hare could not be stopped, and he did not come back.
Now the people of Ried were a simple and backward folk. One day the mayor of Ried was in a village further down in the valley and, for the first time in his life, he saw a donkey. He liked the looks of this beast, and he asked the people how to grow such an animal, for he himself would like to have one.
They said, "We plant them on a manure pile as little pumpkins. With sunshine and rain they grow bigger and bigger, and in the summer when the sun is right hot young donkeys hatch out of them, just like little chicks come from eggs. But if you want it to happen more quickly, you have to hatch them yourself."
With that the mayor purchased a round green pumpkin and carried it back up to his village. He set it in the middle of the village square and he plus two other men sat on it day and night. After two days others came to relieve them, but while they were changing places the pumpkin rolled away. It crashed into some brush, frightening a hare, which leapt madly away.
The mayor ran after it, waving his arms and shouting, "Stop! Stop, little donkey, I'm your father!"
The bishop politely listened to them, then said, "Come back this afternoon to get what you have requested."
When they returned that afternoon he gave them a large pumpkin filled with seeds. They put it on a donkey, thanked the bishop, and made their way homewards.
High on the mountainside the donkey shied. The pumpkin fell to the ground and rolled down the mountain. It fell into a hare's nest, and the hares ran away.
The two men shouted, "The donkeys are running away! They are running away!"
They rushed to tell the others, and all together they ran off in search of the donkeys, but to this day they have not found them.
They all stood there baffled, until finally one of them stepped forward and said, "It can only be a horse's egg, because you found it where the horses like to graze."
The peasants all agreed with this explanation, but now there was a new difficulty: No one knew how to get a horse to sit on the egg to hatch it. Finally they decided that each house would assign a man to take turns hatching the egg.
Because the pumpkin was already turning yellow they said, "The foal is almost ready to come out."
The hatching turn came to an awkward fellow, and he turned this way and that way on the pumpkin causing it to lose its balance and roll into a gully where a hare was sleeping in the brush. The frightened hare ran away.
The peasants pursued him, shouting, "Listen to us! Listen to us!"
But the hare did not listen to them, but instead raced frantically into the woods.
The peasants went back to the pumpkin to see how the hare had come out of it. They found a mass of pumpkin seeds. Now, first one and then another of them realized that was not an egg after all, but rather something entirely different.
The judge distributed the seeds to the houses in the village with the instructions to plant them. The next summer they learned more about the mysterious thing, and since then they have planted pumpkins every year.
The seed from which the first pumpkin grew must have been brought to our country by a bird from a foreign land, and thus the pumpkin grew on that hill not far from the village.
One day it occurred to the people of Sainte-Dode that they were earning too little with their farming, their wine-growing, and their horse breeding. The people -- men, women, and children -- assembled in front of the church to discuss the matter.
"People of Sainte-Dode," called out the cleverest of them, "do you want to increase your fortune and at the same time work only half as much?"
"Yes! Yes!" they all shouted.
"Listen to what we must do. I have been told there is a merchant who lives near the the Daurade Church in Toulouse. He has horse seed for sale, but it is very expensive. We will have to buy some. Let us send four capable men to Toulouse to get some for us."
"He is right! We want some of that horse seed!"
The four men were soon selected, and they set off at once for Toulouse where they found the merchant's business near the Daurade Church.
"Good day, gentlemen."
"We have been told that you have horse seed for sale here."
"Gentlemen, that is true, but each seed costs one hundred gold pistoles.
"We'll take one. Here is the money."
From the back room the merchant fetched a pumpkin as large as a barrel. "Here, my friends, is my best horse seed. But listen to what I have to say. Shake it as little as possible while carrying it home. Be careful not to break it, otherwise the little foal that is inside will run away, and you will have spent your hundred gold pistoles for nothing.
"Many thanks for the warning."
The four men made their way toward Saint-Dode, and were ever so careful not to break it. They took turns carrying it on their heads.
Everything went well as far as Aubiet, where they stopped to rest on a steep ledge. While they were catching their breath and taking a drink from their cantines the horse seed rolled over the ledge and broke into pieces against a stone. A hare that was sleeping a few steps away jumped up in fright and ran away.
"Oh, what misfortune! Our horse seed has been botched. Just see how our little foal is running away!"
Beside themselves with grief they arrived in Saint-Dode, where they were greeted with sticks and stones.
As it hit a brush-heap at the bottom, a rabbit ran away; and the Irishman jumped up, shouting, "Catch him, catch him! He is a race-horse."
The man replied they were mule's eggs, and told the Irishman that if he would put one on the south side of a hill and sit on it, it would hatch out a mule.
So the Irishman bought one and carried it up on the south side of a hill and sat down on it and soon went to sleep. Of course he fell off, and the pumpkin went rolling over and over down the hill and into the brush; out jumped a rabbit and went running off.
"Koop, colie! Koop colie! Here's you mammy," called the Irishman, but the rabbit wouldn't stop.
So the Irishman went back to the other man and said he wanted another mule's egg; the first one hatched into a mighty fine colt, but it ran so fast he couldn't catch it, and he would like to buy another.
A little later he would stagger around with an un usually huge pumpkin and pretend to stumble and drop it; whereupon it would roll down a hill and start up a rabbit from a colony at the foot of the hill; for the pumpkin would hit a stone and explode with an awful bang.
One Easterner, seeing a rabbit bounding off at full speed, cried excitedly: "Well, by gum, that egg would certainly have made some racehorse!"
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Revised August 7, 2021.