What The Old Man Does Is Always Right


What The Old Man Does Is Always Right
The farmer changed his horse for a cow, and so on down to a bag of rotten apples.

I WILL tell you the story which was told to me when I was a little boy. Every time I thought of the story, it seemed to me to become more and more charming; for it is with stories as it is with many people they become better as they grow older.
I take it for granted that you have been in the country, and seen a very old farm-house with a thatched roof, and mosses and small plants growing wild upon the thatch. There is a stork's nest on the summit of the gable; for we can't do without the stork. The walls of the house are sloping, and the windows are low, and only one of the latter is made so that it will open. The baking-oven sticks out of the wall like a little fat body. The elder tree hangs over the paling, and beneath its branches, at the foot of the paling, is a pool of water in which a few ducks are disporting themselves. There is a yard dog too, who barks at all comers.
Just such a farm-house stood out in the country; and in this house dwelt an old couple a peasant and his wife. Small as was their property, there was one article among it that they could do without a horse, which made a living out of the grass it found by the side of the high road. The old peasant rode into the town on this horse; and often his neighbors borrowed it of him, and rendered the old couple some service in return for the loan of it. But they thought it would be best if they sold the horse, or exchanged it for something that might be more useful to them. But what might this something be?
"You'll know that best, old man," said the wife. "It is fair-day to-day, so ride into town, and get rid of the horse for money, or make a good exchange: whichever you do will be right to me. Ride off to the fair."
What The Old Man Does Is Always Right

And she fastened his neckerchief for him, for she could do that better than he could; and she tied it in a double bow, for she could do that very prettily. Then she brushed his hat round and round with the palm of her hand, and gave him a kiss. So he rode away upon the horse that was to be sold or to be bartered for something else. Yes, the old man knew what he was about.
The sun shone hotly down, and not a cloud was to be seen in the sky. The road was very dusty, for many people who were all bound for the fair were driving, or riding, or walking upon it. There was no shelter anywhere from the sunbeams.
Among the rest, a man was trudging along, and driving a cow to the fair. The cow was as beautiful a creature as any cow can be.
"She gives good milk, I'm sure," said the peasant. "That would be a very good exchange the cow for the horse."
"Hallo, you there with the cow!" he said; "I tell you what I fancy a horse costs more than a cow, but I don't care for that; a cow would be more useful to me. If you like, we'll exchange."
"To be sure I will," said the man; and they exchanged accordingly.
So that was settled, and the peasant might have turned back, for he had done the business he came to do; but as he had once made up his mind to go to the fair, he determined to proceed, merely to have a look at it; and so he went on to the town with his cow.
Leading the animal, he strode sturdily on; and after a short time, he overtook a man who was driving a sheep. It was a good fat sheep, with a fine fleece on its back.
"I should like to have that fellow," said our peasant to himself.
"He would find plenty of grass by our palings, and in the winter we could keep him in the room with us. Perhaps it would be more practical to have a sheep instead of a cow. Shall we exchange?"
The man with the sheep was quite ready, and the bargain was struck. So our peasant went on in the high road with his sheep.
Soon he overtook another man, who came into the road from a field, carrying a great goose under his arm.
"That's a heavy thing you have there. It has plenty of feathers and plenty of fat, and would look well tied to a string, and paddling in the water at our place. That would be something for my old woman; she could make all kinds of profit out of it. How often she has said, 'If we only had a goose!' Now, perhaps, she can have one; and, if possible, it shall be hers. Shall we exchange? I'll give you my sheep for your goose, and thank you into the bargain."
The other man had not the least objection; and accordingly they exchanged, and our peasant became proprietor of the goose.
By this time he was very near the town. The crowd on the high road became greater and greater; there was quite a crush of men and cattle. They walked in the road, and close by the palings; and at the barrier they even walked into the toll-man's potato-field, where his own fowl was strutting about with a string to its leg, lest it should take fright at the crowd, and stray away, and so be lost. This fowl had short tail-feathers, and winked with both its eyes, and looked very cunning. "Cluck, cluck!" said the fowl. "What it thought when it said this I cannot tell you; but directly our good man saw it, he thought, "That's the finest fowl I've ever seen in my life! Why, it's finer than our parson's brood hen. On my word, I should like to have that fowl. A fowl can always find a grain or two, and can almost keep itself. I think it would be a good exchange if I could get that for my goose.
"Shall we exchange?" he asked the toll-taker.
"Exchange!" repeated the man; "well, that would not be a bad thing."
And so they exchanged; the toll-taker at the barrier kept the goose, and the peasant carried away the fowl.
Now, he had done a good deal of business on his way to the fair, and he was hot and tired. He wanted something to eat, and a glass of brandy to drink; and soon he was in front of the inn. He was just about to step in, when the hostler came out, so they met at the door. The hostler was carrying a sack.
"What have you in that sack?" asked the peasant.
"Rotten apples," answered the hostler; "a whole sack-full of them enough to feed the pigs with."
"Why, that's terrible waste! I should like to take them to my old woman at home. Last year the old tree by the turf-hole only bore a single apple, and we kept it in the cupboard till it was quite rotten and spoiled. 'It was always property,' my old woman said; but here she could see a quantity of property a whole sack-full. Yes, I shall be glad to show them to her."
"What will you give me for the sack-full?" asked the hostler.
"What will I give? I will give my fowl in exchange."
And he gave the fowl accordingly, and received the apples, which he carried into the guest-room. He leaned the sack carefully by the stove, and then went to the table. But the stove was hot: he had not thought of that. Many guests were present horse dealers, ox-herds, and two Englishmen and the two Englishmen were so rich that their pockets bulged out with gold coins, and almost burst; and they could bet, too, as you shall hear.
What The Old Man Does Is Always Right
"Shall we have a bet?" said the Englishman to the farmer. "We have gold by the barrel!"

Hiss-s-s! hiss-s-s! What was that by the stove? The apples were beginning to roast!
"What is that?"
"Why, do you know " said our peasant.
And he told the whole story of the horse that he had changed for a cow, and all the rest of it, down to the apples.
"Well, your old woman will give it you well when you get home!" said one of the two Englishmen. "There will be a disturbance."
"What? give me what?" said the peasant. "She will kiss me, and say, 'What the old man does is always right.'"
"Shall we wager?" said the Englishman. "We'll wager coined gold by the ton a hundred pounds to the hundredweight!"
"A bushel will be enough," replied the peasant. "I can only set the bushel of apples against it; and I'll throw myself and my old woman into the bargain and I fancy that's piling up the measure."
"Done taken!"
What The Old Man Does Is Always Right
The old Man relates his success.

And the bet was made. The host's carriage came up, and the Englishmen got in, and the peasant got in; away they went, and soon they stopped before the peasant's hut.
"Good evening, old woman."
"Good evening, old man."
"I've made the exchange."
"Yes, you understand what you're about," said the woman.
And she embraced him, and paid no attention to the stranger guests, nor did she notice the sack.
"I got a cow in exchange for the horse," said he.
"Heaven be thanked!" said she. "What glorious milk we shall now have, and butter and cheese on the table! That was a most capital exchange!"
"Yes, but I changed the cow for a sheep."
"Ah, that's better still!" cried the wife. "You always think of everything: we have just pasture enough for a sheep. Ewe's-milk and cheese, and woollen jackets and stockings! The cow cannot give those, and her hairs will only come off. How you think of everything!"
"But I changed away the sheep for a goose."
"Then this year we shall really have roast goose to eat, my dear old man. You are always thinking of something to give me pleasure. How charming that is! We can let the goose walk about with a string to her leg, and she'll grow fatter still before we roast her."
"But I gave away the goose for a fowl," said the man.
What The Old Man Does Is Always Right
"Well, now I must kiss you!" said the woman; "Thank you my own husband," and she kissed him right on the mouth.

"A fowl? That is a good exchange!" replied the woman. "The fowl will lay eggs and hatch them, and we shall have chickens: we shall have a whole poultry-yard! Oh, that's just what I was wishing for."
"Yes, but I exchanged the fowl for a sack of shrivelled apples."
"What! I must positively kiss you for that," exclaimed the wife.
"My dear, good husband! Now I'll tell you something. Do you know, you had hardly left me this morning, before I began thinking how I could give you something very nice this evening. I thought it should be pancakes with savory herbs. I had eggs, and bacon too; but I wanted herbs. So I went over to the schoolmaster's they have herbs there, I know but the schoolmistress is a mean woman, though she looks so sweet. I begged her to lend me a handful of herbs. 'Lend!' she answered me; 'nothing at all grows in our garden, not even a shrivelled apple. I could not even lend you a shrivelled apple, my dear woman.' But now I can lend her ten, or a whole sack-full. That I'm very glad of; that makes me laugh!" And with that she gave him a sounding kiss.
"I like that!" exclaimed both the Englishmen together. "Always going down-hill, and always merry; that's worth the money."
So they paid a hundredweight of gold to the peasant, who was not scolded, but kissed.
Yes, it always pays, when the wife sees and always asserts that her husband knows best, and that whatever he does is right.
You see, that is my story. I heard it when I was a child; and now you have heard it too, and know that "What the old man does is always right."

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The Stories on this site were compiled from the following historical publications and others.

Hans Christian Andersen
Andersen's Fairy Tales
Chicago - New York - San Francisco
Belford, Clarke & Co.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen's
for the
Copyrighted 1893, McLoughlin Bros.

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
Camden Press
Dalziel Bros. Engravers and Printers Copyright Unknown, est. 1870

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
E.P. Dutton and Co.
© 1906-1907

Hans Christian Andersen
Hans Christian Andersen
The Century Company,
The DeVinne Press
Copyright 1900