How the Beggar Boy turned into Count Piro
Once upon a time...
There lived a man who had only one son, a lazy, stupid boy, who would never do anything he was told. When the father was dying, he sent for his son and told him that he would soon be left alone in the world, with no possessions but the small cottage they lived in and a pear tree which grew behind it, and that, whether he liked it or not, he would have to work, or else he would starve. Then the old man died.英文阅读网
But the boy did not work; instead, he idled about as before, contenting himself with eating the pears off his tree, which, unlike other pear trees before or since, bore fruit the whole year round. Indeed, the pears were so much finer than any you could get even in the autumn, that one day, in the middle of the winter, they attracted the notice of a fox who was creeping by.
'Dear me; what lovely pears!' he said to the youth. 'Do give me a basket of them. It will bring you luck!'
'Ah, little fox, but if I give you a basketful, what am I to eat?' asked the boy.
'Oh, trust me, and do what I tell you,' said the fox; 'I know it will bring you luck.' So the boy got up and picked some of the ripest pears and put them into a rush basket. The fox thanked him, and, taking the basket in his mouth, trotted off to the king's palace and made his way straight to the king.
'Your Majesty, my master sends you a few of his best pears, and begs you will graciously accept them,' he said, laying the basket at the feet of the king.
'Pears! at this season?' cried the king, peering down to look at them; 'and, pray, who is your master?'
'The Count Piro,' answered the fox.
'But how does he manage to get pears in midwinter?' asked the king.
'Oh, he has everything he wants,' replied the fox; 'he is richer even than you are, your Majesty.'
'Then what can I send him in return for his pears?' said the king.
'Nothing, your Majesty, or you would hurt his feelings,' answered the fox.
'Well, tell him how heartily I thank him, and how much I shall enjoy them.' And the fox went away.
He trotted back to the cottage with his empty basket and told his tale, but the youth did not seem as pleased to hear as the fox was to tell.
'But, my dear little fox,' said he, ' you have brought me nothing in return, and I am so hungry!'
'Let me alone,' replied the fox; 'I know what I am doing. You will see, it will bring you luck.'
A few days after this the fox came back again.
'I must have another basket of pears,' said he.
'Ah, little fox, what shall I eat if you take away all my pears?' answered the youth.
'Be quiet, it will be all right,' said the fox; and taking a bigger basket than before, he filled it quite full of pears. Then he picked it up in his mouth, and trotted off to the palace.
'Your Majesty, as you seemed to like the first basket of pears, I have brought you some more,' said he, 'with my master, the Count Piro's humble respects.'
'Now, surely it is not possible to grow such pears with deep snow on the ground?' cried the king.
'Oh, that never affects them,' answered the fox lightly; 'he is rich enough to do anything. But to-day he sends me to ask if you will give him your daughter in marriage?'
'If he is so much richer than I am,' said the king, 'I shall be obliged to refuse. My honour would not permit me to accept his offer.'
'Oh, your Majesty, you must not think that,' replied the fox; 'and do not let the question of a dowry trouble you. The Count Piro would not dream of asking anything but the hand of the princess.'
'Is he really so rich that he can do without a dowry?' asked the king.
'Did I not tell your Majesty that he was richer than you?' answered the fox reproachfully.
'Well, beg him to come here, that we may talk together,' said the king.
So the fox went back to the young man and said: 'I have told the king that you are Count Piro, and have asked his daughter in marriage.'
'Oh, little fox, what have you done?' cried the youth in dismay; 'when the king sees me he will order my head to be cut off.'
'Oh, no, he won't!' replied the fox; 'just do as I tell you.' And he went off to the town, and stopped at the house of the best tailor.
'My master, the Count Piro, begs that you will send him at once the finest coat that you have in your shop,' said the fox, putting on his grandest air, 'and if it fits him I will call and pay for it to-morrow! Indeed, as he is in a great hurry, perhaps it might be as well if I took it round myself.' The tailor was not accustomed to serve counts, and he at once got out all the coats he had ready. The fox chose out a beautiful one of white and silver, bade the tailor tie it up in a parcel, and carrying the string in his teeth, he left the shop, and went to a horse-dealer's, whom he persuaded to send his finest horse round to the cottage, saying that the king had bidden his master to the palace.
Very unwillingly the young man put on the coat and mounted the horse, and rode up to meet the king, with the fox running before him.
'What am I to say to his Majesty, little fox?' he asked anxiously; 'you know that I have never spoken to a king before.'
'Say nothing,' answered the fox, 'but leave the talking to me. "Good morning, your Majesty," will be all that is necessary for you.'
By this time they had reached the palace, and the king came to the door to receive Count Piro, and led him to the great hall, where a feast was spread. The princess was already seated at the table, but was as dumb as Count Piro himself.
'The Count speaks very little,' the king said at last to the fox, and the fox answered: 'He has so much to think about in the management of his property that he cannot afford to talk like ordinary people.' The king was quite satisfied, and they finished dinner, after which Count Piro and the fox took leave.
The next morning the fox came round again.
'Give me another basket of pears,' he said.
'Very well, little fox; but remember it may cost me my life,' answered the youth.
'Oh, leave it to me, and do as I tell you, and you will see that in the end it will bring you luck,' answered the fox; and plucking the pears he took them up to the king.
'My master, Count Piro, sends you these pears,' he said, 'and asks for an answer to his proposal.'