The Purse A'Tuppence

Once there was an old woman and an old man. The old bag had a hen and the old man, a rooster; the woman's hen laid eggs twice a day and the hag would eat a barrel of eggs; and to the greyhead she would give none. One day, the old man lost his temper and spoke:"Old woman, you eat as if on a high day. Give me ought of the eggs, that I at least still my appetite.""Surely!" the hag said, who was very tight-pursed. "If you have a craving for eggs, then beat up your rooster even, that he lay eggs, and eat those; for so I beat up my hen, and look at 'er how she lays 'em."The old man, gluttonous and wicked, took the hag's words at heart and, to spite her, hastily grabbed the bird, chop-chop, and gave it a sound thrashing, whereupon he spoke:"Take that! See that you lay an egg, or be off from my house; that you don't waste my food for nothing."The cockerel, as soon as it had loosened from the grip of the greyhair, spurted away from home and rambled the roads – battily. And, as it was going down a road, behold – it came across a two-pence worth of a purse and made for the old man's house. On its way, it chanced across a carriage with a lord along a trifling number of ladies. The boyar looked in heed at the bird, spotted a purslet in its beak and spoke to the coachman:"Man, get thee down and see what that bird hath in its beak."The coachman hastily climbed down the dicky and, with considerable skill, snatched the bird and, taking the purse from its mouth, handed it to the lord. The lord took it, save the bird, pocketed it and proceeded away in his carriage. Wrathful at all that, the cockerel did not yield, but followed the carriage, reprising: Gabble-gabble, lords well-versedGive us back yon tuppence purse! The lord, spiteful, upon reaching a fount, told the coachman:"Man, take that cheek of a cockerel and stuff it in the fount!"The coachman came anew off the dicky, grabbed the winged fellow and thrust it into the well. The cockerel, in observing this great peril, stood at a loss. Upon which it proceeded in gulping water; and gulp, gulp it goes, until all the water in the fount was done. Then it flew out of 't and again followed the carriage, speaking: Gabble-gabble, lords well-versedGive us back yon tuppence purse! The boyar, in seeing this, awfully wondered and spoke:"Confound it, man! This is the devil's bird! I will see to 't that you find your match, thou crested and spurred creature!"And, as he arrived home, he told a crone that worked in the kitchen to take the cockerel, thrust it in an oven filled with red-hot coals and seal the mouth of that with a stone. The crone, hard-hearted, a woman of her words, did as her master told her. The bird, as it also saw that injustice, started spitting water; and all the water from the fount it poured unto the coals, until it killed the fire altogether and the oven was chilled; more than 't, to such an extent did it flood the property, that the hag stood in a bedevil'd spite, all the waking day. Then it gave a jerk to the stone at the mouth of the oven, came out unharmed e'n from there, and – pit-pat at the window of the boyar, banging its beak against the glass as it spoke: Gabble-gabble, lords well-versedGive us back yon tuppence purse! "Well, I have met my trouble with this beast of a cock," the lord said, overpowered by wonder. "Coachman! Get it out of my sight and thrust it into the herd of oxen and cows; maybe it shall meet its reward by the horns of a mad bull; maybe it'll be forked up and rid us of the nuisance."Again, the coachman grabbed the cockerel and threw it into the herd! But, lo and behold, that proved to be more to the bird's joy! One should have seen it gulping down those bulls, oxen, cows and calves; it did so until it swallowed the whole herd, grew a huge belly – spacious as a mountain! Then, anew, it came up to the window, spanned its wings in the face of the sun, so that the boyar's house was darkened altogether, and commenced anew! Gabble-gabble, lords well-versedGive us back yon tuppence purse! The lord, as he saw that new plague, burst into anger and stood helpless of what to do further, only to rid himself of the beast. Thus with his thinking cap on, he paused for a while, until a new one came to him."I shall throw it into the treasury; perchance it'll swallow scores of coins and choke on one, and then I shall rid myself of it."And, as he said that, he grappled the bird by a wing and hurled it into the treasury. For, that boyar, for the quantity of his money, had lost count of 't. Thereupon the cockerel avidly swallowed all the gold, leaving the crates empty. Then it flung itself out as only it knew how from whence, after which it went up to the lord's sill and proceeded: Gabble-gabble, lords well-versedGive us back yon tuppence purse! Now, after all that had happened, the boyar, when seeing clearly that he had no choice, flung the purslet over. The cockerel picked it up in mirth, went about its own business and left the boyar alone. Then all the fowl in the lord's yard, seeing the cockerel's guts, took after it, so that one could have fancied it nothing short of a wedding. Meanwhile, the lord watched the birds flee and sighed:"May they be gone, croaker and everything, good that I have rid myself of the nuisance, that one was the devil's work!"Nonetheless, our fellow strutted high and mighty, with the fowl following. It walked awhile, until it came to the old man's home, and from the gate started chanting: "Cockle-doo! Cockle-doo!" The greyhead, as soon as he heard the cockerel's voice, came outside, mirthfully; and, as he cast his eyes on the gate, what did he see? His cockerel was a frightful sight to look at! The elephant seemed a flea next to that bird of his; and in its train followed countless flocks of winged fellows, each more portly than the other, more crested and richer. The old man, upon seeing his beast so large and heavy and swarmed by the scores of fowls, opened the gate. Upon that, the bird spoke:"Master, spread a rug here, in the middle of the yard."The old man, nimble as one of them young urchins, spread out the rug. The cockerel then sat on the rug, shook its wings heavily, and readily the grounds and the orchard stood filled – beside fowl – with herds of cows. And, on the rug, it pelted a heap of gold coins, whose shine reflected by the sun was blinding! The old man, in seeing these grand riches, did not know what to do for joy, and kept smacking and petting the bird.Then, the old wife came out of nowhere; and, when she saw such things, her wicked eyes glared up and she spitefully burst out."Old man," she spoke humbly, "give me some of those pieces of gold.""You may whistle for it, woman! As I asked you for eggs, do you remember what you answered? Why don't you give that hen of yours a good thrashing now, so that it fetches you gold; for this is how I beat the daylights out of my bird, for yer fault, and look what it brought me back!"Upon this, the crone went to the coop, grabbed the hen and rained blows on't that one could have wept for its pity! Poor beast, as soon as it freed itself from her clutch, ran away. And, as it rambled aimlessly, it chanced upon a bead and swiftly downed it. Then in a jiffy it returned home to her crone and went, from the gate even: "Cluck, cluck, cluck!" The hen jumped over the gate, grazed past the woman and lodged itself in the nest, clucking. Whereupon the hag rushed up to see what the hen had yielded!... and, as she looked into the nest, what could she behold? The hen had laid... a bead of glass. The hag, as she saw that the hen mocked her, grabbed it and drabbed it, drabbed it to death! And thus, the miserly, mad old hag remained as poor as a church mouse. From now on, she would bite into her nails instead of those eggs. Serves her right for scoffing the hen and killing the poor thing for nothing!Meanwhile, the old man grew mightily wealthy; he had roomy houses and fair gardens built and lived like King Midas. In his all-encompassing mercy, he put the hag to tend to the poultry. The cockerel he took with him wherever he went – trimmed with a golden girdle and spurs, so much so that he seemed more a buffoon of the finest metal, not a beast, fit to brew in a pot of bran and water. First published in Literary Colloquies, issue no. 10 of January 1, 1876

by Ion Creangă (1838-1889)