THE GOLDEN PEARS.
THERE was once a poor peasant of Bürs who had nothing in the world but three sons, and a pear-tree that grew before his cottage.
But as his pears were very fine, and the Kaiser was very fond of them, he said to his sons one day, that he would send the Kaiser a basket of them for a present.
So he plaited a nice Krattle  and lined it with fresh leaves, and laid the pears on them, and sent his eldest son with it to make a present to the Kaiser, giving him strict charge to take care and not let any one rob him of them by the way.
"Leave me alone, father!" replied the boy; "I know how to take care of my own. It isn't much any one will get out of me by asking; I can find as good an answer as any one."
So he closed up the mouth of the basket with fresh leaves and went out to take the pears to the Kaiser.
It was autumn, and the sun struck hot all through the midday hours, and at last coming to a wayside fountain, he sat down to drink and rest.
A little doubled-up old woman was washing some rags at the same fountain, and singing a ditty all out of tune. "A witch, I'll be bound!" said the boy to himself. "She'll be trying to get my pears, by hook or by crook, but I'll be even with her!"
"A fair day, my lad!" said the little old wife; "but a heavy burden you have to carry. What may it be with which you are so heavily laden?"
"A load of sweepings off the road, to see if I can turn a penny by it," replied the boy, in a moody tone, intended to arrest further questioning.
"Road-sweepings?" repeated the hag, incredulously. "Belike you don't mean it?"
"But I do mean it," retorted the boy.
"Oh, well, if you mean it, no doubt it is so. You will see when you get to your journey's end!" and she went on washing and singing her ditty that was all out of tune.
"There's mischief in her tone," said the boy to himself, "that's clear. But at all events I'm all right: I haven't even let her look at the fruit with her evil eye, so there's no harm done." But he felt perplexed and uneasy, so it was no good taking rest, and he went on to the end of his journey.
Though he was only a country lad, the Kaiser was so fond of pears that he had only to say he had brought some to obtain immediate admittance to his presence.
"You have brought me some pears, have you, my boy?" said the Kaiser, in a tone of satisfaction; and he licked his lips with pleasurable expectation.
"Yes, your majesty; and some of the finest golden pears in your majesty's whole empire."
The Kaiser was so delighted to hear this that he removed the covering of leaves himself. But proportionately great was his fury when he found that under the leaves was nothing but offensive sweepings off the road! The attendants who stood by were all equally indignant, and waited not for an order from the Kaiser to carry the boy off to close prison, in punishment for so great an insult as he appeared to have offered.
"It is all that old hag by the fountain," he said to himself, the first day and the second; but when the penitential discipline of the prison led him to think more closely over his own conduct, he acknowledged that he had himself been in the wrong in telling a falsehood.
Meantime, his father, finding he did not return, said to his other sons, "You see what it is to be as wide-awake as your elder brother; he has obviously taken care of his basket of golden pears, and so pleased the Kaiser that he has given him some great office near his person, and made him a rich man."
"I am just as sharp as he," said the second brother: "give me a Krattle of the pears, and let me take them to the Kaiser, and become a rich man too; only I won't keep it all for myself. I will send for you, and make you a rich man too."
"Well said, my son," replied the father; "for I have worked hard for you all my life, and it is meet that in my old age you should share your ease, which I helped you to attain, with me."
And as the season for pears had just come round again, he plaited another Krattle, like the first, and lined it with fresh leaves, and laid in it a goodly show of the golden pears.
The second son took the basket, and went his way even in better spirits than his elder brother, for he had the conviction of his success to encourage him. But the sun was as hot as it had been the previous year, and when, in the middle of the third day, he came to the fountain by the wayside he was glad to sit down to rest and refresh himself.
The doubled-up old woman stood washing her rags at the fountain and singing her ditty all out of tune. She stopped her croaking, however, to ask him the same question as she had asked his brother; and, as he and his brother had agreed together on what they considered a clever answer, he now gave her the same, which she received by repeating the menace she had ejaculated the first time. And when he brought his basket to the Kaiser it also was found to be filled with street-sweepings instead of pears! With even more of indignation they hurried him off to prison, putting him in the next cell to his brother.
Meantime the year was wearing away, and the promised tidings of good fortune not reaching the father, he got very uneasy. The third son had no pretension to the sharpness his brothers boasted. He was a very dull boy, and often had to endure being laughed at by the others for his slow parts.
"What a pity it is you are so heavy and stupid!" his father now would often say. "If I only dared trust you, how glad I should be to send you to see what has befallen your brothers!"
The lad was used to hear himself pronounced good-for-nothing, and so he did not take much notice of these observations at first, but seeing his father really in distress, his affectionate heart was moved, and he one day summoned courage to say he would go and see if he could not find his brothers.
"Do you really think you can keep yourself out of harm's way?" exclaimed his father, glad to find him propose to undertake the adventure.
"I will do whatever you tell me," replied the lad.
"Well, you shan't go empty-handed, at all events," said the father. And, as the pears were just ripe again, he laid the choicest of the year's stock in another Krattle, and sent him on his way.
The boy walked along, looking neither to right nor left, but with his heart beating, lest he should come across the "harm" out of the way of which he had promised to keep himself. All went smoothly, however, except that he got terribly scorched by the sun, and when he reached the fountain, he was glad to sit down to rest and refresh himself.
The old wife was washing her rags in the water, and singing, as she patted the linen, a ditty all out of tune. "Here comes a third of those surly dogs, I declare!" she said to herself, as she saw him arrive with another lot of the magnificent pears. "I suppose he'll be making game of me too--as if I didn't know the scent of ripe golden pears from road-sweepings! a likely matter! But if they enjoy making game of me, I have a splendid revenge to enjoy upon them, so I oughtn't to complain."
"Good-morrow, little mother!" said the boy, in his blunt way, ere he sat down, at the same time not omitting to doff his cap, as he had been taught, because she happened to be old and ugly--matters of which he had no very nice appreciation.
"He's better mannered than the other louts, for all he doesn't look so bright-faced," said the hag to herself; and she stopped her discordant song to return his greeting.
"May I sit down here a bit, please, good mother? asked the boy, thinking in his simplicity the fountain must belong to her.
"That you may, and take a draught of the cool water too," replied the dame, wondrously propitiated by his civility.
"And what may it be with which you are so laden, my pretty boy?" she continued. "It ought to be a precious burden to be worth carrying so far as you seem to have come. What have you in your Krattle?"
"Precious are the contents, I believe you," replied the simple boy; "at least, so one would think from the store my father sets by them. They are true golden pears, and he says there are no finer grown in the whole kingdom; and I am taking them to the Kaiser because he is very fond of them."
"Only ripe pears, and yet so heavy?" returned the old wife; "one would say it was something heavier than pears. But you'll see when you come to your journey's end."
The boy assured her they were nothing but pears, and as one of his father's injunctions had been not to lose time by the way, he paid the old dame a courteous greeting and continued his journey.
When the servants saw another peasant boy from Bürs come to the palace with the story that he had pears for the king, they said, "No, no! we have had enough of that! you may just turn round and go back." But the poor simple boy was so disappointed at the idea of going back to be laughed at for not fulfilling his message, that he sank down on the door-step and sobbed bitterly, and there he remained sobbing till the Kaiser came out.
The Kaiser had his daughter with him, and when she saw the boy sobbing, she inquired what ailed him; and learnt it was another boy from Bürs come to insult the Kaiser with a basket of road-sweepings, and asked if they should take him off to prison too.
"But I have got pears!" sobbed the boy; "and my father says there are no finer in the empire."
"Yes, yes; we know that by heart. That's what the others said!" replied the servants, jeering; and they would have dragged him away.
"But won't you look at my pears first, fair lady? the pears that I have brought all this long way for the Kaiser? My father will be so sorry!" for he was too ignorant to feel abashed at the presence of the princess, and he spoke to her with as much confidence as if she had been a village maiden.
The princess was struck by the earnestness with which he spoke, and decided to see the contents of his basket. The moment he heard her consent, he walked straight up with his Krattle, quite regardless of the whole troop of lacqueys, strong in the justice of his cause.
The princess removed the covering of leaves, and discovered that what he had brought were golden pears indeed, for each pear, large as it was, was of solid shining metal!
"These are pears indeed worthy to set before the Kaiser!" she said, and presented them to her father.
The Kaiser was pleased to see his favourite fruit so splendidly immortalized, and ordered the pears to be laid up in his cabinet of curiosities; but to the boy, for his reward, he ordered that whatever he asked should be given.
"All I want is to find my two brothers, who hold some great office at court," said the boy.
"Your brothers hold office in prison, if they are those I suspect," said the Kaiser, and commanded that they should be brought. The boys immediately ran to embrace each other; and the Kaiser made them each recount all their adventures.
"You see how dangerous it is to depart from the truth!" he said, when they had done. "And never forget that, with all your cleverness, you might have remained in prison to the end of your days but for the straightforward simplicity of him you thought so inferior to yourselves."
Then he ordered that the tree which brought forth such excellent pears should be transplanted to his palace; and to the father and his three sons he gave places among his gardeners, where they lived in plenty and were well content.