The Golden Goose ©
Simpleton was not expected to amount much so in the family he was least cared for. His father a woodcutter wanted his children to follow his footsteps. Dow the eldest was as sturdy as his father and Bo was of middling abilities but his brawn was as good as his elder brother. So they got special consideration from all.
Simpleton of course was a 95-pound weakling.
After a severe winter the woodcutter felt ill and took to bed. Since he could not go into the woods and meet his commitments he sent his eldest son instead. Next morning Dow went to the woods with his lunch. On his way he saw a fellow who said he had a hangover after drinking moonshine. ‘Gimme that bottle of milk so I may soothe my innards.’
‘No way,’ said Dow. He knew he would be hungry by mid-day he went to the woods, irritated. In a temper he directly got swinging his axe. Wildly wood chips burst about him. Because he didn’t check the axe that was idle for long he didn’t notice the blade was loose. In the middle of a swing it went flying. Going in search of it he fell into a trap set for bears. Poor Dow! He lay in agony till he was rescued next day by a team of villagers.
Next it was the turn of Bo who was superstitious. He took his axe and went by another route than his brother had taken. On the way he saw a black cat chasing a goose and he knew his day’s work was doomed. He had a hunch and was put out. Along came a man with heavy built frame to retrieve the cat.’Morning, mister’ he said. In response he glared at him.
The brute stood there with his mouth agape. He caught the eye of Bo and wheedled, ‘Gimme the ham from your sandwich for a poor cat.’ Bo wondered ‘How did he know that I had ham sandwiches in my knapsack?’ Looking how the black cat was staring at him he knew that it was devil’s work.
‘Be gone, you foul magician!’ Bo crossed himself and ran off.
Rest of the day he was shaking with dire forebodings and it was expected that he would get into scrape. Naturally his hunch was right. He injured himself. He limped that evening home.
Next morning the sick woodcutter called Simpleton and said, ‘I or your brothers cannot go into the woods.’ Much as he hated sending him to the woods he knew the job had to be done. So he said, ‘ If you can’t swing the axe find someone who will.’
Simpleton asked if he could hire someone. His mother stepped in to say, ‘Where is the money for it, son?’ His parents were sure that if he were to be led at every turn it was prudent to please those who could. ‘ Put your neck out for a leash if you want to be of use, son’ thus his father admonished him.
Simpleton left for the woods.
On the way he saw an old man who was sitting on a bole and said he was an out of work actor. Because of his age the company of actors left him there to starve, he said.
‘How cruel!’ muttered Simpleton.
‘Did they not leave at least something for you to live on?’ he asked.
‘Oh why should they?’ the old man said, ‘if one cannot lead the world then one has to expect to be led.’
Simpleton recalled his father’s words that morning. He felt pity and sat by the old man. ‘It is only fair then that we who are no good for leading the world care for each other.’ He held out half share of his lunch and the old man hungrily took and ate. ‘It really came no sooner.’ Said the old man as he sat up picking up the crumbs carefully. They exchanged news and the old man knew Simpleton was not appreciated, as he deserved. At that moment a black cat came out of nowhere and positioned itself facing Simpleton. The cat cried hungrily and Simpleton poured milk in a saucer and pushed it forward. The cat slurped it greedily while its owner came to the scene.
The man took off his battered hat and said he was so pleased with his kindness. He saw the axe that Simpleton had. ‘Isn’t that too heavy for you to carry about?’ Simpleton nodded. The heavyset man queried ‘What can I do for you?’ Simpleton told him that wood has to be cut and he was as he noticed too weak to wield an axe. ‘Oho, it is a very simple task and I shall help you.’ The cat’s owner saw a goose and pointed it to him. At that moment the cat got into some sort of fit and began running in circles as though it was possessed. The man in his battered hat cried in passion, ‘I am so confused by that silly bird. It has been following me for a week. Why I can’t tell. Only that it drives my cat completely crazy!’ Simpleton went out and picked the goose and the cat instantly became very quiet.’ There, there, it is strange’ the cat’s owner said. Asking him to keep an eye on his cat he went into the woods. By sundown he brought a heap of wood. Simpleton wondered how he was going to carry them home. The old actor who was asleep for good part of the day assured the boy that he would see to that. The old man said, ‘ Leave that axe and the wood’ He promised to see that they reached his father safely. Simpleton was grateful. ‘The old man said, ’It is time you took a chance with your fortunes.’
‘What with one goose that has no place to go?’
The old man cackled and said, ‘Yes if it cannot lead, all that remains is you gotta take the lead.’
The old man was gone on his errand and the man with the black cat said he had to get going. Thus simpleton was left alone with a goose.
‘Follow me to fame and fortune, as the old actor said,’ Simpleton
Thus Simpleton walked a good length with the goose by his side. He entered an inn for the night. The innkeeper had three daughters who could not help laughing seeing how serious he was. ‘How can I not be serious, with a golden goose?’ said he snapping out of his reverie. ‘A golden goose?’ they laughed all the more.
Simpleton fled them and shut the door in their faces. Next morning when he stepped out he carried the goose in the crook of his arm. Unknown to him the eldest came behind him and slapping his back she said Boo!’ She was stuck and she could not free herself. She gasped in fright and her two sisters quickly came to her rescue. But they were also held fast.
The innkeeper heard the commotion and came out to investigate. He chided Simpleton for his prank.
‘What prank, sir?’
‘’You think you can lead my daughters astray?’
Simpleton said, ‘I just want to be on my way and your daughters do not want me to.’
The inn-keeper tried to reason with his daughters but they cried, ‘We want to be led by none other than him.’ The innkeeper got furious and pulled the last daughter by her hair and he was also stuck.
Simpleton thought it was going too far. He pushed the goose away and said, ‘Can’t you see we are on our way to fame and fortune?’ Just as he let go the goose the file became loose and the innkeeper took charge. He herded his daughters back to the inn.
‘You lazy creatures, back to work!’ he cried.
But the youngest turned back and said, ‘No I shall not work among your pots and pans.’ She stood her ground and the innkeeper in the end had to let her go. She ran and caught up with Simpleton and said, ‘I am with you all the way.’
‘Agreed.’ Said Simpleton. They were so happy with one another and they laughed so much that the goose could not help but lay an egg. A golden egg!
It didn’t however stop their joy.