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352 The Hired Hand 150. There lived and dwelt this peasant. He had three sons. The oldest son went off to hire on as a laborer. He went to the town and hired out to a merchant, and that merchant was ever so tight and stern! He kept repeating the same words:“When the cock crows, hired man get up and get to work.” For the lad it appeared both difficult and hard. He got through a week and then returned home. So the second son departed, and he stayed with the merchant for a week, couldn’t stand it any longer, and checked out.“Father,” said the youngest son,“permit me. I’ll go and hire out to the merchant.”“What are you on about, fool? You’d be better off sitting on the stove! Better lads than you have gone and returned with nothing.” “Well, whatever you want, I’m going!” So he said that and went to the merchant. “Greetings, merchant!” “Greetings, young man! What’s new?” “Take me on as a hired man.” “Of course, only with me, Brother, when the cock crows, you get right to work and work all day long.” “That’s a well-known thing. Being hired is like being sold!” “And what will you take?” “What can I get from you? I’ll live through a year, and you’ll get a bash to the head and your lady a squeeze. I don’t require anything else.” “Very well, young lad!” answered the master, and he thought to himself :“What a blessing! Hired so cheaply, it’s very cheap!” Toward evening, the hired hand contrived to catch the cock, wrap its head beneath its wing, and tumble off to sleep. Midnight had long since passed, and morning was approaching. It ought to have been time to awaken the hired hand, but the cock didn’t crow! The sun rose in the sky, and the hired man awoke by himself.“Well, Master, let’s have breakfast. It’s time to go to work!” They ate breakfast and worked all day until evening . At dusk, he again caught the cock, wrapped its head under its wing, and went off to sleep until morning. The third night was the same. The master was amazed. What sort of proverb could it be about the cock: It The Hired Hand h 353 had totally ceased shouting its lungs out!“I’ll go out into the countryside and look for another cock.” The merchant went off to search for a cock and took the hired man with him. So they went off down the road and met four peasants leading a bull, and that bull was so huge and so fearsome! They could hardly hold it by the ropes.“Where are you going, brothers?” asked the hired man.“We’re taking this bull to slaughter.” He walked up to the bull and gave it a bash to the head and killed it. After that he grabbed and squeezed the bull’s skin—and that skin was off! The merchant noted his hired man’s blow and squeeze and became sad. He completely forgot about the cock and returned home, and began consulting with his wife as to how to avoid their coming misfortune.“Here’s what we’ll do,” said the merchant’s wife, “we’ll send that hired man late in the evening into the woods, and say that a cow from the herd didn’t come in. Let wild beasts eat him!”“Very good.” They waited until evening, supped, and then the merchant’s wife went out into the yard, stood next to the gate, and then came into the hut and said to the hired man: “Why didn’t you drive the cows into the barn? One of them, a polled cow, is missing.” “But I thought they were all there!” “Not all. Go quickly into the woods and search again.” The hired hand got dressed, took his club, and made his way into the dense woods. No matter how he walked about the woods, he found not a single cow. He poked and prodded about, and there lay a bear in its lair, and the hired hand thought it was a cow. “Oh, you! How did you get yourself in there? Damn you! And I’ve been looking all night for you.” And he went after that bear with his club. The bear rushed to get away, but the hired hand grabbed it...


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