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32 The Fox Healer 18. There lived and dwelt an old man and old woman. The old man planted a head of cabbage in the cellar, and the old woman in an ash heap. The old woman’s cabbage in the ash heap completely withered away, but the old man’s grew and grew, right up to the floor. The old man took an axe and cut out a hole in the floor just above the cabbage. Again the cabbage head grew and grew, and it grew right up to the ceiling . Again the old man took an axe and cut out a hole in the ceiling just above the cabbage head. The cabbage head grew and grew and grew right up to the sky. How was the old man to look upon the top of his head of cabbage? He climbed up the stem. He climbed and climbed and climbed right up to the sky, and then he cut a hole in the sky and climbed up there. He looked around. There stood some millstones; the millstones would turn and out would come a pie and a pastry, and on top of that a pot of buckwheat porridge . The old man ate and drank his fill and then tumbled off to sleep. He slept, climbed back down to earth, and said, “Old woman! Old woman! What a fine life they lead up in the sky! There are some millstones , and whenever they turn, out come a pie and a pastry, and on top of that a pot of buckwheat porridge.” “So how could I get to spend some time up there, old man?” “Get in this sack, old woman, and I’ll carry you.” She thought about it a little and then got in the sack. The old man took the sack in his teeth and set off climbing up to the sky. He climbed and climbed; he climbed for a long while. The old woman got bored and asked,“Is it far, old man?”“Farther, old woman.” So again he climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed.“Is it far, old man?”“We’re half way.” Again he climbed and climbed and climbed and climbed. Again the old woman asked,“Is it far, old man?”The old man was just about to say“Not far!” when the sack tore loose from his teeth. The old woman crashed down to the ground and was smashed to pieces. The old man climbed down over the cabbage head, raised up the sack, and in the sack were just bones, and those just in bits. The old man left home and wept bitterly. He met a fox. The Fox Healer h 33 “What are you crying about, old man?” “How should I not cry! My old woman has been smashed to pieces.” “Be still, I’ll heal her.” The old man fell at the fox’s feet:“Heal her and I’ll pay you whatever you want!” “Well, heat up the bathhouse and carry in there a bag of oatmeal, a pot of butter, and the old woman, and you stand behind the doors and don’t look inside.” The old man heated up the bathhouse, carried in what was necessary , and stood behind the doors. And the fox went into the bathhouse, latched the door, and began washing the old woman’s bones—he didn’t really wash them, he licked them clean. The old man asked,“How is it, how’s the old woman?”“She’s moving!”said the fox, and he finished eating the old woman, gathered the bones together, and put them in a corner. Then he stirred his porridge. The old man just kept standing there, and he asked,“How is it, how’s the old woman?”“She’s sitting up!” said the fox, and he polished off the porridge. The fox finished it and said, “Old man, open the door a little wider.” He opened it, and the fox leapt out of the bathhouse and ran off home. The old man went into the bathhouse and looked: There was nothing but the old woman’s bones beneath the bench and these had been gnawed, and the oatmeal and butter had been eaten. The old man remained alone in his misery. ...


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