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III. A GOBLIN IN A BOTTLE
ONCE upon a time there was a poor woodcutter who worked from daylight to dark, and as he spent little he saved some money. He had an only son, and one day he said to him: “This money which I have earned by the sweat of my brow shall be spent on your education. Go to school and learn something useful that you may be able to support me in my old age when my limbs become so stiff that I am obliged to sit at home.”
The son went away to a great school and was very industrious and made excellent progress. He had been at the school a long time, but had not learned all that was to be learned when his father’s store of money was exhausted, and he was obliged to come home.
“I can give you no more,” his father said sadly, “for in these dear times I am scarcely able to earn my daily bread.”
“Make yourself easy as to that, my good father,” the son responded. “I will suit myself to the times.”
When the father was about to go to the forest to chop, the son said, “I will go with you and help.”
“Ah! but you have never been used to such hard work,” the father objected. “You must not attempt it. Besides, I have only one ax and no money to buy another.”
“Go and ask your neighbor to lend you an ax till I have earned enough to buy one for myself,” the son said.
So the father borrowed an ax, and he and the scholar went together to the forest, where the young man helped with the work and was very lively and merry. About noon, when the sun stood right over their heads, the father sat down to rest for a while and eat his dinner.
The scholar, however, took his share of bread and said: “I am not tired. I will go a little deeper into the forest and look for birds’ nests.”
“Oh, you silly fellow!” his father exclaimed, “why do you want to run about? You will get so weary you will not be able to raise your arm. Keep quiet a bit and sit down here with me.”
But the young man would not do that. He went off among the trees eating his bread and peeping about among the bushes for nests. To and fro he wandered until he came to an immense hollow oak tree. The tree was certainly hundreds of years old, and five men taking hold of hands could not have reached around it.
The scholar had stopped to look at this great tree thinking that many a bird’s nest must be built within its hollow trunk when be fancied he heard a voice. He listened and there came to his ears a half-smothered cry of “Let me out!”
He looked around, but could see no one. Indeed, it seemed to him that the voice came from the ground. So he called, “Where are you?”
The voice replied, “Here I am among the roots of the oak tree. Let me out! Let me out!”
The scholar therefore began to search at the foot of the tree where the roots spread. Finally in a little hollow, he found a glass bottle. He picked it up and held it so he could look through toward the light. Then he perceived a thing inside shaped like a frog which kept jumping up and down.
“Let me out! Let me out!” the thing cried again; and the scholar, not suspecting any evil, drew the stopper from the bottle.
Immediately the little creature sprang forth, and it grew and grew until in a few moments it stood before the scholar a frightful goblin half as tall as the oak tree. “Do you know what your reward is for letting me out of that glass bottle?” the goblin cried with a voice of thunder.
“No,” the scholar answered without fear, “how should I?”
“Then I will tell you that I must break your neck,” the goblin announced.
THE GOBLIN THREATENS THE SCHOLAR
“You should have told me that before,” the scholar said, “and you would have stayed where you were. But my head will remain on my shoulders in spite of you, for there are several people’s opinions to be asked yet about this matter.”
“Keep your people out of my way,” the goblin snarled. “I was shut up in that bottle for a punishment, and I have been kept for such a length of time that I long vowed I would kill whoever let me out for not coming to release me sooner. So I will break your neck.”
“Softly, softly!” the scholar responded, “that is quicker said than done. I don’t know
whether to believe your word or not. You told me you were in that bottle. But how could such a giant as you are get into so mall a space? Prove that you spoke the truth by retiring into the bottle, and afterward do what you please with me.”
Full of pride, the goblin boasted, “I can readily furnish you the proof you ask”; and shrank and shrank until he was as small as before. Then he crept back into the bottle. Instantly the scholar replaced the stopper, and put the bottle once more where it had been among the oak roots. He picked up his ax and was about to go back to his father when the goblin cried lamentably:
“Oh, let me out! Do let me out.”
“No, not a second time,” the scholar said. “I shall not give you a chance to take my life again in a hurry, after I have got you safe.”
“Free me,” the goblin pleaded, “and I will give you wealth that will last you your life-time.”
“No, no, you will only deceive me!” the scholar declared.
“You are disregarding your own best interests,” the goblin said. “Instead of harming you I will reward you richly.”
“Well, I will hazard letting him out,” the scholar thought, “for he may after all keep his word.”
Then he addressed the goblin, saying: “I will release you. See to it that you do as you have promised.”
So he removed the stopper and the goblin jumped out and soon became as big as before. “Now you shall have your reward,” the monster said, and he reached the scholar a little piece of rag. “Apply that to a wound, and the wound will at once heal,” he explained; “or touch it to iron and the iron will change to silver.”
“I will try it, “the scholar responded, and he went to the oak tree and slashed off a piece of bark with his ax. Then he touched the place with the rag, and immediately the wound closed up as if the bark had never been gashed at all.
“That is quite satisfactory,” the scholar said. “Now we can separate.”
“I thank you for releasing me, “the goblin remarked as he turned away.
“And I thank you heartily for your present,” the scholar said.