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Old Hildebrand

Once upon a time there lived an old Farmer, and his Daughter with him, whom the Parson of the village, having once seen, took a great fancy to; and he thought he should be very happy if he could manage one day to have a long talk with her alone. To this the Daughter had no objection, and the Parson one day said to her, “Oh! My dear maiden, hear what I have to say; I will tell you how to manage, that we may have a whole day all to ourselves. About the middle of this week do you lie in bed one morning, and tell your father you are very ill, and groan and sigh very badly, and keep that up all the week. Then, on Sunday, when I come to deliver my sermon, I will preach that whoever has at home a sick child, a sick husband, a sick wife, a sick father or mother, a sick sister or brother, or any other relative, and shall make a journey to the Bell Mountain in Wales, such an one’s sick child, sick husband or wife, sick father or mother, sick sister or brother, or any other relative, shall become well on the instant.”

“Oh! That I will do for you,” said the girl; and thereupon, about the middle of the week, she laid a-bed, and spite of all her Father brought or did for her, she groaned and sighed till the Sunday, as if she were full of pain. On Sunday the Daughter said to her Father, “Oh! I am really so miserably ill, I feel as if I should die; but once before my end I should like to hear the Parson again, and hear the sermon which he will deliver to-day.”

“Ah! My child,” replied the Farmer, “you must not do that; you would be all the worse for it if you got up. But never mind; I will go to church, and pay great attention to the sermon, and afterwards come and tell you all the Parson said.”

“Ah! Very well,” said the Daughter, “but mind you are very attentive, and tell me everything.”

So away went the Farmer to church; and, after the Parson had chanted and read all the service, he got into the pulpit and began his sermon. In the course of it he said, “If any one here has a sick child, a sick husband or a sick wife, a sick father or mother, a sick brother or a sick sister, or any other relative, and shall go to the Bell Mountain in Wales, to such an one shall the sick child, sick husband or wife, sick father or mother, sick sister or brother, or any other relative, regain health immediately; especially if he take with him a cross and some laurel leaves which I will give him after service.” Then was nobody quicker than the Farmer in going to the Parson after service for his laurel leaves and cross; and as soon as he had received them, he hurried home; and almost before he got to the door he called out. “Come, my dear daughter, you will soon be well. The Parson has preached to-day that whosoever having a sick child, a sick husband or wife, a sick mother or father, a sick brother or a sick sister, or any other person, shall go to the Bell Mountain, with a cross and laurel leaves given him by the Parson, his sick child, sick husband or wife, sick father or mother, sick sister or brother, or any other relative, shall recover immediately. Now, the laurel leaves and cross I have received from the Parson, and I shall set out immediately on the journey, that you may be the earlier in good health.” So saying, he set out; but scarcely had he gone when the Daughter got up, and very soon afterwards in stepped the Parson. Here we will leave them a bit while we follow the Farmer in his wanderings. As we have said, he had set out at once, that he might reach the Bell Mountain the sooner, and on his way his Cousin met him, who was an egg-merchant, and was just come from market, having sold his eggs.

“Good-day to you,” said the Cousin; “whither are you going?”

“To Wales, cousin,” he replied, “my daughter is very ill; and the Parson said yesterday in his sermon that whoever having at home a sick child, a sick husband or wife, a sick father or a sick mother, a sick brother, sister, or any other relation, should then make a journey to the Bell Mountain in Wales, carrying in his hand some laurel and a cross, blessed and given by the Parson—whoever should do this, then that his sick child, sick mother or sick father, husband or wife, sick brother or sick sister, or any other relative, would immediately be restored to health. So this laurel and cross I have received from the Priest, and now I am hastening to the mountain.”

“But hold, cousin, stop!” said the other to the Farmer, “are you so simple as to believe that? Why, how do you know that the Parson may not perchance wish to have a comfortable talk with your daughter alone, and therefore has contrived this tale to take you away from home?”

“Mercy on us!” said the Farmer, “if I did but know whether that were true or not!”

“Well, you soon can see,” replied the Cousin; “just get into my cart, and I will drive you home, that you may satisfy yourself.”

It was soon done; and as they drove nearer to the house they heard the sounds of merriment. There had the Farmer’s Daughter gathered the best of everything out of the farmyard and garden, and made all manner of savory dishes, and the Parson was there to partake of them. So the Cousin knocked at the door, and the Maiden inquired who was there.

“It is only me, cousin,” replied he; “will you give me a night’s lodging? I have just sold my eggs in the market, and I meant to have got home to-night; but it is so dark already that I dare not go.”

“You have come at a very unlucky moment, cousin,” replied the Farmer’s daughter; “but since you are quite alone you may come in and sit yourself down in the chimney-corner.”

So the egg-merchant, carrying his basket, came in and sat down where he was bid, while the Parson and the Daughter made themselves very merry together over their meal. Presently the Parson said, “You can sing I think, my dear; just give us a bit of a song.”

“Well,” said she, “I could sing once when I was very young; but now I have forgotten how, and it is almost all lost to me.”

♪ “Never mind; do just try!” entreated the Parson. So the Farmer’s Daughter began;

♪ “Oh! Well have I sent my father away To the mountains in Wales so high!”

and then the Parson joined in;

♪ “And there he shall stop for a year and a day; And merry the time will pass by.”

Presently the Cousin within struck up (but here I must tell you the Farmer’s name was Hildebrand)

♪ “Hearest thou that, my Hildebrand dear? Why sit’st thou so quiet, so near, so near?”

And directly the Farmer made answer

♪ “Oh! More of your singing I never can stand! And out of this basket I must get my hand!”

With these words he jumped up from the basket, and bundled the Parson out of the house.

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