MANY years ago there was an old married man who, although poor, had worked very diligently all his life on his little piece of ground. One winter’s night, as this old man was seated with his wife in front of their comfortable hearth in social chat, instead of giving thanks to God for the benefits they enjoyed, they spent the time in enumerating the good things possessed by their neighbours, and in wishing that they belonged to them.
“Instead of my little hut, which is on bad soil, and only fit to house a donkey in, I would like to have the farm of old Polainas!” exclaimed the old man.
“And I,” added his wife, who was annoyed that he did not aspire higher, “instead of that, would like to have our neighbour’s house, which is nearly new.”
“And I,” continued her husband, “instead of our old donkey, which can scarcely carry an empty sack, would like to have Polainas’s mule!”
“And I,” exclaimed the wife, “would like to have such a fat porker as our neighbour has to kill! Some people seem only to wish for a thing in order to get it. How I should like to see my wishes accomplished!”
Scarcely had she uttered these words than they beheld a most beautiful little woman standing in front of the fire. She was so small that her height could not have been more than eighteen inches, whilst she wore a crown like a queen’s upon her head. Her tunic and veil were almost transparent, and seemed made of white smoke, whilst the sparks from the fire crackled and jumped like fireworks about her, and sparkled around her as glittering spangles. In her hand she bore a little golden sceptre, the end of which was formed by a gleaming ruby.
“I am the Fairy Fortunata,” she said to them. “I was passing by here, and I have heard your complaints. I have so much anxiety to accomplish your desires that I come to promise you the realization of three wishes: one to you,” she said to the wife; “the other to you,” to the husband, “and the third has to be mutual, and agreeable to the desire of you both. This last I will agree to in person tomorrow, when I will return at this time; and until then I leave you to think of what it shall be.”
When she had said these words, the beautiful fairy sprang through the flames and disappeared in a cloud of smoke.
I leave to the imagination of our fair readers the delight of the worthy couple, and the number of wishes, numerous as suitors at the door of a Minister, which presented themselves to their minds. Their desires were so many that, not knowing which to select, they determined to defer the definite selection to the following day. After having had all the night to think the matter over, they began to discuss entirely different things. In a little while their conversation recurred to their wealthy neighbours.
“I was at their house to-day,” said the husband; “they were making black puddings. Ah, such black puddings! It would have done you good to see them!”
“I would like to have one of them here,” replied the wife, “to roast on the ashes for supper.”
Scarcely had she uttered the words than there appeared upon the ashes the most delicious-looking black pudding that could possibly be imagined.
The woman remained staring at it with open mouth and eyes starting out of her head. But her husband jumped up in despair, and after striding up and down the room, tearing his hair in desperation, said:—“Through your gluttony, you greedy woman, we have lost one of the wishes! Good heavens, what a woman this is! More stupid than a goose! It makes me desperate; I detest you and the black pudding too, and I wish it were stuck on to your nose!”
No sooner had he spoken than there was the black pudding hanging from the place indicated!
Then was the old man struck with horror and his wife with desperation.
“You see what you have done, evil tongue!” exclaimed she, as she made useless exertions to tear the appendage from her nose; “if I employed my wish badly, at least it was to my own disadvantage and not to the disadvantage of any one else; but the sin carries its punishment with it, for I will not have any other wish, nor desire anything else than that the black pudding be taken off my nose.”
“Wife, for heaven’s sake! What of the new house?”
“Wife, for heaven’s sake, think of the farm!” “It does not matter.”
“My dear, let us wish for a fortune, and then we will have a golden case for the black pudding.”
“I will not hear of it.”
“Then you would have us left just as we were before?”
“That is all that I wish for.”
And for all that the man could say, nothing could alter his wife’s determination, who grew more and more enraged with her double nose, and could scarcely keep off the dog and the cat, who both wished to make free with it.
When, on the following night, the fairy appeared and asked them what was their last wish, they said to her: “We see how blind and foolish it is of men to fancy that the realization of their wishes will make them happy.” Nor is happiness in the accomplishment of our wishes, but in the not having any. He is rich who possesses what he wants; but happy is he who wishes for nothing.