THERE were once two men who were walking across a churchyard--and there was nothing remarkable about that; but when one of them lifted his cap, as one should do in such a place, and said: "God's peace to all who rest here!" then the other said: "They lie as they have made their bed, and they get what they deserve!" It was very wicked to talk in that way; and no sooner had he spoken these words than he was changed into a stone statue, and thus he stood for many, many years. The one parson after the other came and prayed and chanted over him, but no one was able to exorcise the soul out of the petrified body.
It so happened that a new parson came to the parish, and he was much more learned than all the others. He was a model parson in every respect; but he was somewhat hasty, and his wife was not one to be trifled with either. When he saw the stone statue and heard why it stood there, he wanted also to try to get its soul to rest in peace. He had the statue carried into his study, so that he could pray over it every day, both in the morning and in the evening and at all hours of the day, which he did. But the first time he read the evening prayers and came to the words: "God banish everything that is evil from this house!" he heard something like a titter over in the corner where the statue stood, but he could not make out from whom it proceeded. Next evening when he came to these words the same thing happened, but he became none the wiser this time either.
The third evening he again heard the same tittering; but this time he kept a better watch, and then he discovered it was the statue over in the corner that had tittered.
"Can you laugh?" said the parson. "If so, I suppose you can tell me what you are laughing at?"
Yes, that the statue could.
"You see, reverend father," said the statue, "you are wonderfully learned in all sorts of divine teachings, and you live, no doubt, according to what you teach; but you quarrel a little too much with your wife, and therefore all the house swarms with little imps during the day. When you read the evening prayers and come to the words: 'God banish every thing that is evil from this house!' they have to take themselves off; and there is one among them, a little fellow who limps and who tosses his body about in such a funny way when he trudges along, that one cannot help laughing at him. But although they take to flight when you read the prayers, it is not long before they are back again; and as soon as you and your wife begin to quarrel this limping little rascal comes hobbling in, and then all the other little devils come prowling after him, one after the other."
Those words made the parson's heart ache, for when stones begin to talk it is well to listen.
And this he did. He became more forbearing to his wife, and as she herself was not particularly fond of these crawling little things, whom she could not see, but who swarmed around her, she also tried, as well as she could, to control her temper. And as both of them were now more friendly to one another and more inclined to give way to each other, they began little by little to agree and to get on well together. And after a while the statue was not heard to say anything either; and some little time afterwards the parson asked it if it now saw any signs of the little hobbling imp and his companions.
"Well, I have seen him holding the door ajar and peeping in, but he has not ventured across the threshold," said the statue; "but now I think he has become tired of it, for he has not been here for many days, and now I only see God's angels around you."
The parson rejoiced at hearing these words, and thanked God for having put an end to all their dissensions.
"But how is it with yourself now?" he asked the statue.
"Well, I shall also find peace now," said the statue; "for now I have done a good deed, and I am only waiting for the last prayer."
And it was not long before it came. The parson read the best prayer he knew, and when he had finished the statue became flesh and blood again, but he drew his last breath at the same moment. The parson put him in a coffin and gave him a respectable burial, and in this way they both benefited.