The Crimson Fairy Book
Once upon a time there lived an old man who had only one son, whom he loved dearly;
but they were very poor, and often had scarcely enough to eat. Then the old man fell ill,
and things grew worse than ever, so he called his son and said to him:
'My dear boy, I have no longer any food to give you, and you must go into the world and
get it for yourself. It does not matter what work you do, but remember if you do it well
and are faithful to your master, you will always have your reward.'
So Peter put a piece of black bread in his knapsack, and strapping it on his back, took a
stout stick in his hand, and set out to seek his fortune. For a long while he travelled on
and on, and nobody seemed to want him; but one day he met an old man, and being a
polite youth, he took off his hat and said: 'Good morning,' in a pleasant voice. 'Good
morning,' answered the old man; 'and where are you going?'
'I am wandering through the country trying to get work,' replied Peter.
'Then stay with me, for I can give you plenty,' said the old man, and Peter stayed.
His work did not seem hard, for he had only two horses and a cow to see after, and
though he had been hired for a year, the year consisted of but three days, so that it was
not long before he received his wages. In payment the old man gave him a nut, and
offered to keep him for another year; but Peter was home-sick; and, besides, he would
rather have been paid ever so small a piece of money than a nut; for, thought he, nuts
grow on every tree, and I can gather as many as I like. However, he did not say this to the
old man, who had been kind to him, but just bade him farewell.
The nearer Peter drew to his father's house the more ashamed he felt at having brought
back such poor wages. What could one nut do for him? Why, it would not buy even a
slice of bacon. It was no use taking it home, he might as well eat it. So he sat down on a
stone and cracked it with his teeth, and then took it out of his mouth to break off the shell.
But who could ever guess what came out of that nut? Why, horses and oxen and sheep
stepped out in such numbers that they seemed as if they would stretch to the world's end!
The sight gave Peter such a shock that he wrung his hands in dismay. What was he to do
with all these creatures, where was he to put them? He stood and gazed in terror, and at
this moment Eisenkopf came by.
'What is the matter, young man?' asked he.
'Oh, my friend, there is plenty the matter,' answered Peter. 'I have gained a nut as my
wages, and when I cracked it this crowd of beasts came out, and I don't know what to do
with them all!'