"The Farmer and the Noses." by Lilian Gask (1865-)
THE neighbourhood of the City of Prague there once lived a very eccentric farmer, who was reputed to be extremely wealthy. He had a remarkably handsome daughter, with a pair of fine dark eyes, who was a great favourite with many students at a neighbouring University. She would often chat with these when they passed her home in their country rambles, but she never showed more encouragement to one than to the other.
So charming was Theresa, and so rich her father, that the name of her suitors was legion. Theresa knew her own value well, and was not a ripe cherry ready to drop off the branch at a moment's touch. This only enhanced her attraction to her lovers, and several of them agreed upon the ingenious plan of entering her father's service during their vacation as ordinary farm-hands, so that one of their number might thus find an opportunity of winning her maidenly heart.
The farmer was a shrewd old man, and soon discovered their wily plot. For the future, he declared, he would only take servants who agreed to remain in his employment for at least a year, and permit him to cut off the tips of their noses if they became discontented. He, for his part, would agree that he should forfeit the tip of his own nose if he lost his temper with them. Notwithstanding this extraordinary condition, so fascinating was Theresa, and the reputation of his wealth, that several of the University students entered his service.
It was fine sport for the farmer, for he had the youths in the hollow of his hand. By putting upon them unexpected hardships, he surprised them into betraying discontent. He then demanded that they should pay the penalty, and ignominiously dismissed them, minus the tips of their noses.
At length, however, a young student named Coranda arrived on the scene, determined to win the farmer's daughter. The conditions were fully explained to him, so that he might have no just cause of complaint if he did not comply with them.
EMEMBER," said the farmer, "that if you come you must stay until the cuckoo returns in the spring, and if, in the meantime, you show any signs of discontent, you too will forfeit the tip of your nose."
"Very well," said the student calmly, and with an affectionate glance at Theresa took off his coat and prepared to work.
The farmer began his usual tactics. At dinner and supper he offered the young man nothing to eat, yet smilingly inquired from time to time if he had had enough. Coranda replied with gay good-humour that he was perfectly satisfied, but having no intention of starving, he coolly helped himself to a piece of bread and a thick slice of meat. The farmer turned pale with anger, and asked him how he dared to take such a liberty.
"I was hungry," Coranda replied, "for I had not tasted food all day. However," he added, "since you are not satisfied, and I have made you angry, I will leave at once, after having sliced off the tip of your nose."
The farmer saw that he was fairly caught in his own trap, and as he had no desire to be disfigured, he declared that he too was satisfied. After this he took good care that Coranda should have his share at meal-times.
When Sunday morning came the farmer made another attempt to put him in the wrong.
"I am going to church with my wife and daughter," he said. "You must prepare the soup during my absence. Here are meat, carrots, onions, and the pot. You will find parsley in the garden. See that your soup is good, or you will rue it. Don't forget the herbs," he added; "I like my broth well seasoned."
Shortly after they had gone Coranda began his soup-making. He threw the meat and vegetables into the pot, filled it with water, and then went off to the garden for the parsley. He found other green things in plenty, but no parsley, though he searched under rose-bushes and round the borders, and made himself very hot and uncomfortable in the process.
The farmer's small dog frisked round him all the time apparently delighted by his non-success. It refused to be driven away, and yelped and barked without ceasing.
Suddenly Coranda remembered that for some absurd reason or other they had named the little brute "Parsley."
"Aho," he said, "I have it now!" And without more ado he killed the dog, and added it to the contents of the pot.
In due time the farmer came home from church, looking very well pleased. Theresa had on a new frock trimmed with blue ribbons, and he chuckled with glee at the temerity of the rash student who thought to woo her.
"He's a handsome fellow," he said to himself, "but it will spoil his beauty when I snip off the end of his nose."
He at once proceeded to make matters uncomfortable for the young man.
"I hope your soup is good," he said, as his wife ladled him out a steaming plateful. It tasted abominable, and was swimming with fat, but a gleam in the student's eye reminded him in time that if he gave way to temper his own nose would suffer. So he swallowed his anger, though not the soup.
"Parsley!" he cried, looking round for his dog, "come here! This soup is fit for you, and you shall have it."
"It is Parsley which gives my soup its excellent flavour," remarked the student with a roguish glance at Theresa, who demurely cast down her eyes. "I could find none save the dog, and so I put him in the pot."
On hearing this the farmer began to scold violently.
"I did merely what you told me," said the youth, "but if you are angry I am ready to go, taking with me the tip of your nose."
"Oh, no, I am not angry," replied the farmer, with a deep sigh. His face was contorted with rage, and the other servants had much to do to keep from laughing.
Next morning the farmer went off to market. He would not leave either his wife or daughter at home, for he suspected them of favouring the handsome student. Before he set out he gave him his orders for the day, and in such a rude tone of voice that the young man flushed with anger. He was only to do what he saw the others doing, he was told, and the farmer added a slighting remark as to his general incapacity.
Coranda sauntered round the farm with his hands in his pockets on the look-out for an opportunity to get even with his employer. By and by he noticed some workmen placing a ladder against an old barn, and waited to see what they were going to do. One after another they climbed to the roof, and began to take off the tiles as a preliminary to pulling down the building.
ORANDA lost no time in following their example. He fetched another ladder, and mounting the roof of the farmer's house, set to work to demolish this. When the farmer returned he was horrified to see that most of it was uncovered. Naturally indignant, he attacked the young man bitterly, to be met with the same smiling good-humour, and an offer to leave his service on the conditions agreed upon. The farmer once more could not find a word to say, and stalked away in gloomy anger.
This sort of thing went on for some weeks. Try as he might, he could not get the better of the quick-witted student, who scrupled at nothing in his determination to win Theresa for his bride. It was she whom the father at last consulted, for life was becoming a burden to him, and he was anxious to get rid of Coranda at any cost.
Theresa considered awhile, and there was an odd expression on her pretty lips when at last she spoke.
"Well," said she, "you told him that he could not leave until he heard the cuckoo's call. Take him into the meadow behind the orchard. I will hide in the boughs of an apple-tree, and imitate the cuckoo's voice."
"You are as clever as you are handsome," cried her father with great delight, and pretending to desire a private conversation with the student, he took him into the long meadow. Theresa, of course, was safely ensconced by this time in the spreading boughs of an apple-tree.
"Cuckoo! Cuckoo!" she cried, so naturally that a robin on a neighbouring bush was nearly startled out of his feathers. As the sound reached his ears, the farmer promptly gave the young man notice.
"Very good, master," replied Coranda, "but this cuckoo's an early bird. I must have a look at her."
EFORE the farmer could stop him he ran to the orchard, and catching a glimpse of Theresa's frock through the gnarled brown boughs, he vigorously shook the apple-tree. Down came the girl, falling into his arms, and he held her there tightly, in spite of her mild struggles to escape.
"Wretch!" cried the farmer. "Be off at once before I put an end to you."
"Why should I be off?" inquired Coranda, trying to look at Theresa's face, which was certainly pink enough for an apple-blossom. "Are you angry? It's a lovely cuckoo."
"Begone!" shouted the farmer. "Set my daughter free, and away with you!"
"Then allow me to cut off the tip of your nose," was the reply, and now Theresa succeeded in escaping from the arms that held her. The farmer stood aghast.
"No, no," he exclaimed in distressful tones, "I cannot have that, but you must leave us. If you go at once I will give you ten sheep."
"That's not enough," replied the student, shaking his head.
"Then ten cows," said the farmer hastily.
"No, I would rather keep to our agreement," replied Coranda, whipping out of his pocket a very large penknife and opening one blade. Theresa sprang forward with a cry of horror. Once more the student caught her in his arms.
"Ssh! Your father shall keep his nose, but he must give you to me for my wife." And he kissed her so ardently that if Theresa had any objection to make, it was not heard.
The farmer now forgot everything in his rage at the young man's boldness, but in the midst of his storming the fair Theresa threw her arms around his neck and implored him not to sacrifice his nose, since she was quite willing to marry this lover. The situation was not an easy one for the poor man, and at length he allowed himself to be appeased, and admitted that Coranda had the best of the argument. There was no denying this, and as the young man would not relinquish his advantage, the farmer was forced to give a favourable answer to his suit.
The wedding of the young people was celebrated very soon, and Coranda invited his defeated fellow-students, who came with a good grace. The farmer soon became reconciled to his son-in-law, and in due course was a great favourite with his grandchildren. If they were naughty, or appeared discontented, their father would threaten to cut off the tips of their noses, and then the old man might be seen tenderly rubbing his own.