The Brown Fairy Book
Which was the Foolishest?
In a little village that stood on a wide plain, where you could see the sun from the
moment he rose to the moment he set, there lived two couples side by side. The men, who
worked under the same master, were quite good friends, but the wives were always
quarrelling, and the subject they quarrelled most about was-- which of the two had the
Unlike most women--who think that anything that belongs to them must be better than
what belongs to anyone else--each thought her husband the more foolish of the two.
'You should just see what he does!' one said to her neighbour. 'He puts on the baby's
frock upside down, and, one day, I found him trying to feed her with boiling soup, and
her mouth was scalded for days after. Then he picks up stones in the road and sows them
instead of potatoes, and one day he wanted to go into the garden from the top window,
because he declared it was a shorter way than through the door.'
'That is bad enough, of course,' answered the other; 'but it is really NOTHING to what I
have to endure every day from MY husband. If, when I am busy, I ask him to go and feed
the poultry, he is certain to give them some poisonous stuff instead of their proper food,
and when I visit the yard next I find them all dead. Once he even took my best bonnet,
when I had gone away to my sick mother, and when I came back I found he had given it
to the hen to lay her eggs in. And you know yourself that, only last week, when I sent him
to buy a cask of butter, he returned driving a hundred and fifty ducks which someone had
induced him to take, and not one of them would lay.'
'Yes, I am afraid he IS trying,' replied the first; 'but let us put them to the proof, and see
which of them is the most foolish.'
So, about the time that she expected her husband home from work, she got out her
spinning-wheel, and sat busily turning it, taking care not even to look up from her work
when the man came in. For some minutes he stood with his mouth open watching her,
and as she still remained silent, he said at last:
'Have you gone mad, wife, that you sit spinning without anything on the wheel?'
'YOU may think that there is nothing on it,' answered she, 'but I can assure you that there
is a large skein of wool, so fine that nobody can see it, which will be woven into a coat
'Dear me!' he replied, 'what a clever wife I have got! If you had not told me I should
never have known that there was any wool on the wheel at all. But now I really do seem
to see something.'