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A TROUBLESOME HELPER
Tom went home and to bed, and by morning he bad nearly forgotten all about what had happened the previous evening. But when he went to start the day’s work, there was none to do. The horses had been fed, the stables cleaned, and everything put in its proper place, and he had nothing to do but stand around with his hands in his pockets.
So it was from morn till night, and so it was on the days that followed. All Tom’s work was done by Yallery Brown, and better done than Tom himself could do it. No matter how much the master gave Tom to do, he could sit down at his ease while the work did itself. The hoe, or broom, or whatever it was would get into motion with no visible hand put to it and would finish the task in no time.
Yallery Brown kept out of sight during the day, but in the gray twilight, after the sun had gone down, Tom often saw the tiny creature hopping around like a Will-of-the-Wisp without a lantern.
At first Tom found it mighty fine to be relieved of his work. He had naught to do and good pay for it; but by and by things began to go wrong. His work continued to be done, but the work of the other lads was all undone. If his buckets were filled theirs were upset; if his tools were sharpened theirs were blunted and spoiled; if his horses were made as clean as daisies, theirs were splashed with muck, and so on.
Day in and day out it was the same. Naturally the lads began to have hard feelings toward Tom, and they would not speak to him or go near him, and they carried tales to the master. So things went from bad to worse.
Torn could not work even if he wished to; the spade would not stay in his hand, the scythe escaped from his grip, and the plow ran away from him. More than once he tried his best to do his tasks so that Yallery Brown would leave him and his fellow laborers alone. But he couldn’t, and he was compelled to sit by and look on and have the cold shoulder turned on him while the uncanny thing was meddling with the others and working for him.
At last matters got so bad that the master would keep Torn no longer, and if he had not discharged him the other lads would have left. They swore they would not stay on the same farm with him. Torn felt badly, it was a good place; and be was very angry with Yallery Brown who had got him into such trouble.
So he shook his fist in the air and shouted as loud as he could, “Yallery Brown, come from the earth, you scamp, I want you!”
Hardly had the words left his lips when he felt something tweaking his leg behind, and he was pinched so hard that he jumped with the smart of it. He looked down and there was Yallery Brown with his shining hair and wrinkled face, and wicked glinting black eyes.
Torn was in a fine rage, and he would have liked to kick the ugly creature, but he restrained himself arid said, “Look here, master, I’ll thank you to leave me alone after this. Do you hear? I want none of your help, and I’ll have nothing more to do with you.”
The horrid thing broke into a screeching laugh, and pointed its brown finger at Tom. “Ho, ho, Tom! “it said, “you have thanked me, my lad, and I told you not to do so.”
“But I don’t want your help,” Tom “I only want never to see you again, and to have nothing more to do with you.Now go.”
The thing only laughed and screeched and nocked as long as Tom went on berating it, but as soon as his breath gave out it said with a grin “Tom, my lad, I’ll tell you something. Truly, I’ll never help you again, and even if you call me you will not see me after today. But I never agreed to let you alone, and that I shall not do, my lad. I was where I could do no harm under that stone, Tom, and you let me out. If you had been wise I would have been your friend and worked for you, but I am your friend no longer, and in the future when everything goes crooked you can know that it is Yallery Brown’s doing. Mark my words, will you?”
Then it began to sing and curse and call down misfortunes on him, and it danced round Tom with its yellow hair and beard all flying and a savage scowl on its wrinkled bit of a face. Tom could only stand there shaking all over and staring down at the gruesome thing until at last it rose in the air and floated away on the wind over a wall out of sight with a parting shriek of cunning laughter.
In the days and weeks and years that followed Torn worked here and he worked there, and turned his hand to this and to that, but whatever he did always went wrong. There was no end to Yallery Brown’s spite even until Tom’s life ended.