The Story of the Wind

Robert Nisbet Bain September 2, 2015
30 min read
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    Once upon a time there dwelt two brethren in one village, and one brother was very, very rich, and the other brother was very, very poor. The rich man had wealth of all sorts, but all that the poor man had was a heap of children.

    One day, at harvest-time, the poor man left his wife and went to reap and thresh out his little plot of wheat, but the Wind came and swept all his corn away down to the very last grain. The poor man was exceeding wrath thereat, and said, “Come what will, I’ll go seek the Wind, and I’ll tell him with what pains and trouble I had got my corn to grow and ripen, and then he, forsooth! must needs come and blow it all away.”

    So the man went home and made ready to go, and as he was making ready his wife said to him, “Whither away, husband?”––“I am going to seek the Wind,” said he; “what dost thou say to that?”––“I should say, do no such thing,” replied his wife. “Thou knowest the saying, ‘If thou dost want to find the Wind, seek him on the open steppe. He can go ten different ways to thy one.’ Think of that, dear husband, and go not at all.”––“I mean to go,” replied the man, “though I never return home again.” Then he took leave of his wife and children, and went straight out into the wide world to seek the Wind on the open steppe.

    He went on farther and farther till he saw before him a forest, and on the borders of that forest stood a hut on hens’ legs. The man went into this hut and was filled with astonishment, for there lay on the floor a huge, huge old man, as grey as milk. He lay there stretched at full length, his head on the seat of honour, with an arm and leg in each of the four corners, and all his hair standing on end. It was no other than the Wind himself. The man stared at this awful Ancient with terror, for never in his life had he seen anything like it. “God help thee, old father!” cried he.––“Good health to thee, good man!” said the ancient giant, as he lay on the floor of the hut. Then he asked him in the most friendly manner, “Whence hath God brought thee hither, good man?”––“I am wandering through the wide world in search of the Wind,” said the man. “If I find him, I will turn back; if I don’t find him, I shall go on and on till I do.”––“What dost thou want with the Wind?” asked the old giant lying on the floor. “Or what wrong hath he done thee, that thou shouldst seek him out so doggedly?”––“What wrong hath he done me?” replied the wayfarer. “Hearken now, O Ancient, and I will tell thee! I went straight from my wife into the field and reaped my little plot of corn; but when I began to thresh it out, the Wind came and caught and scattered every bit of it in a twinkling, so that there was not a single little grain of it left. So now thou dost see, old man, what I have to thank him for. Tell me, in God’s name, why such things be? My little plot of corn was my all-in-all, and in the sweat of my brow did I reap and thresh it; but the Wind came and blew it all away, so that not a trace of it is to be found in the wide world. Then I thought to myself, ‘Why should he do this?’ And I said to my wife, ‘I’ll go seek the Wind, and say to him, “Another time, visit not the poor man who hath but a little corn, and blow it not away, for bitterly doth he rue it!”’”––“Good, my son!” said the giant who lay on the floor. “I shall know better in future; in future I will not blow away the poor man’s corn. But, good man, there is no need for thee to seek the Wind in the open steppe, for I myself am the Wind.”––“Then if thou art the Wind,” said the man, “give me back my corn.”––“Nay,” said the giant; “thou canst not make the dead come back from the grave. Yet, inasmuch as I have done thee a mischief, I will now give thee this sack, good man, and do thou take it home with thee. And whenever thou wantest a meal say, ‘Sack, sack, give me to eat and drink!’ and immediately thou shalt have thy fill both of meat and drink, so now thou wilt have wherewithal to comfort thy wife and children.”

    Then the man was full of gratitude. “I thank thee, O Wind!” said he, “for thy courtesy in giving me such a sack as will give me my fill of meat and drink without the trouble of working for it.”––“For a lazy loon, ’twere a double boon,” said the Wind. “Go home, then, but look now, enter no tavern by the way; I shall know it if thou dost.”––“No,” said the man, “I will not.” And then he took leave of the Wind and went his way.

    He had not gone very far when he passed by a tavern, and he felt a burning desire to find out whether the Wind had spoken the truth in the matter of the sack. “How can a man pass a tavern without going into it?” thought he; “I’ll go in, come what may. The Wind won’t know, because he can’t see.” So he went into the tavern and hung up his sack upon a peg. The Jew who kept the tavern immediately said to him, “What dost thou want, good man?”––“What is that to thee, thou dog?” said the man.––“You are all alike,” sneered the Jew, “take what you can, and pay for nothing.”––“Dost think I want to buy anything from thee?” shrieked the man; then, turning angrily to the sack, he cried, “Sack, sack, give me to eat and drink!” Immediately the table was covered with all sorts of meats and liquors. Then all the Jews in the tavern crowded round full of amazement, and asked all manner of questions. “Why, what is this, good man?” said they; “never have we seen anything like this before!”––“Ask no questions, ye accursed Jews!” cried the man, “but sit down to eat, for there is enough for all.” So the Jews and the Jewesses set to and ate until they were full up to the ears; and they drank the man’s health in pitchers of wine of every sort, and said, “Drink, good man, and spare not, and when thou hast drunk thy fill thou shalt lodge with us this night. We’ll make ready a bed for thee. None shall vex thee. Come now, eat and drink whatever thy soul desires.” So the Jews flattered him with devilish cunning, and almost forced the wine-jars to his lips.

    The simple fellow did not perceive their malice and cunning, and he got so drunk that he could not move from the place, but went to sleep where he was. Then the Jews changed his sack for another, which they hung up on a peg, and then they woke him. “Dost hear, fellow!” cried they; “get up, it is time to go home. Dost thou not see the morning light?” The man sat up and scratched the back of his head, for he was loath to go. But what was he to do? So he shouldered the sack that was hanging on the peg, and went off home.

    When he got to his house, he cried, “Open the door, wife!” Then his wife opened the door, and he went in and hung his sack on the peg and said, “Sit down at the table, dear wife, and you children sit down there too. Now, thank God! we shall have enough to eat and drink, and to spare.” The wife looked at her husband and smiled. She thought he was mad, but down she sat, and her children sat down all round her, and she waited to see what her husband would do next. Then the man said, “Sack, sack, give to us meat and drink!” But the sack was silent. Then he said again, “Sack, sack, give my children something to eat!” And still the sack was silent. Then the man fell into a violent rage. “Thou didst give me something at the tavern,” cried he; “and now I may call in vain. Thou givest nothing, and thou hearest nothing”––and, leaping from his seat, he took up a club and began beating the sack till he had knocked a hole in the wall, and beaten the sack to bits. Then he set off to seek the Wind again. But his wife stayed at home and put everything to rights again, railing and scolding at her husband as a madman.

    But the man went to the Wind and said, “Hail to thee, O Wind!”––“Good health to thee, O man!” replied the Wind. Then the Wind asked, “Wherefore hast thou come hither, O man? Did I not give thee a sack? What more dost thou want?”––“A pretty sack indeed!” replied the man; “that sack of thine has been the cause of much mischief to me and mine.”––“What mischief has it done thee?”––“Why, look now, old father, I’ll tell thee what it has done. It wouldn’t give me anything to eat and drink, so I began beating it, and beat the wall in. Now what shall I do to repair my crazy hut? Give me something, old father.”––But the Wind replied, “Nay, O man, thou must do without. Fools are neither sown nor reaped, but grow of their own accord––hast thou not been into a tavern?”––“I have not,” said the man.––“Thou hast not? Why wilt thou lie?”––“Well, and suppose I did lie?” said the man; “if thou suffer harm through thine own fault, hold thy tongue about it, that’s what I say. Yet it is all the fault of thy sack that this evil has come upon me. If it had only given me to eat and to drink, I should not have come to thee again.” At this the Wind scratched his head a bit, but then he said, “Well then, thou man! there’s a little ram for thee, and whenever thou dost want money say to it, ‘Little ram, little ram, scatter money!’ and it will scatter money as much as thou wilt. Only bear this in mind: go not into a tavern, for if thou dost, I shall know all about it; and if thou comest to me a third time, thou shalt have cause to remember it for ever.”––“Good,” said the man, “I won’t go.”––Then he took the little ram, thanked the Wind, and went on his way.

    So the man went along leading the little ram by a string, and they came to a tavern, that very same tavern where he had been before, and again a strong desire came upon the man to go in. So he stood by the door and began thinking whether he should go in or not, and whether he had any need to find out the truth about the little ram. “Well, well,” said he at last, “I’ll go in, only this time I won’t get drunk. I’ll drink just a glass or so, and then I’ll go home.” So into the tavern he went, dragging the little ram after him, for he was afraid to let it go.

    Now, when the Jews who were inside there saw the little ram, they began shrieking and said, “What art thou thinking of, O man! that thou bringest that little ram into the room? Are there no barns outside where thou mayst put it up?”––“Hold your tongues, ye accursed wretches!” replied the man; “what has it got to do with you? It is not the sort of ram that fellows like you deal in. And if you don’t believe me, spread a cloth on the floor and you shall see something, I warrant you.”––Then he said, “Little ram, little ram, scatter money!” and the little ram scattered so much money that it seemed to grow, and the Jews screeched like demons.––“O man, man!” cried they, “such a ram as that we have never seen in all our days. Sell it to us! We will give thee such a lot of money for it.”––“You may pick up all that money, ye accursed ones,” cried the man, “but I don’t mean to sell my ram.”

    Then the Jews picked up the money, but they laid before him a table covered with all the dishes that a man’s heart may desire, and they begged him to sit down and make merry, and said with true Jewish cunning, “Though thou mayst get a little lively, don’t get drunk, for thou knowest how drink plays the fool with a man’s wits.”––The man marvelled at the straightforwardness of the Jews in warning him against the drink, and, forgetting everything else, sat down at table and began drinking pot after pot of mead, and talking with the Jews, and his little ram went clean out of his head. But the Jews made him drunk, and laid him in the bed, and changed rams with him; his they took away, and put in its place one of their own exactly like it.

    When the man had slept off his carouse, he arose and went away, taking the ram with him, after bidding the Jews farewell. When he got to his hut he found his wife in the doorway, and the moment she saw him coming, she went into the hut and cried to her children, “Come, children! make haste, make haste! for daddy is coming, and brings a little ram along with him; get up, and look sharp about it! An evil year of waiting has been the lot of wretched me, but he has come home at last.”

    The husband arrived at the door and said, “Open the door, little wife; open, I say!”––The wife replied, “Thou art not a great nobleman, so open the door thyself. Why dost thou get so drunk that thou dost not know how to open a door? It’s an evil time that I spend with thee. Here we are with all these little children, and yet thou dost go away and drink.”––Then the wife opened the door, and the husband walked into the hut and said, “Good health to thee, dear wife!”––But the wife cried, “Why dost thou bring that ram inside the hut, can’t it stay outside the walls?”––“Wife, wife!” said the man, “speak, but don’t screech. Now we shall have all manner of good things, and the children will have a fine time of it.”––“What!” said the wife, “what good can we get from that wretched ram? Where shall we get the money to find food for it? Why, we’ve nothing to eat ourselves, and thou dost saddle us with a ram besides. Stuff and nonsense! I say.”––“Silence, wife,” replied the husband; “that ram is not like other rams, I tell thee.”––“What sort is it, then?” asked his wife.––“Don’t ask questions, but spread a cloth on the floor and keep thine eyes open.”––“Why spread a cloth?” asked the wife.––“Why?” shrieked the man in a rage; “do what I tell thee, and hold thy tongue.”––But the wife said, “Alas, alas! I have an evil time of it. Thou dost nothing at all but go away and drink, and then thou comest home and dost talk nonsense, and bringest sacks and rams with thee, and knockest down our little hut.”––At this the husband could control his rage no longer, but shrieked at the ram, “Little ram, little ram, scatter money!”––But the ram only stood there and stared at him. Then he cried again, “Little ram, little ram, scatter money!”––But the ram stood there stock-still and did nothing. Then the man in his anger caught up a piece of wood and struck the ram on the head, but the poor ram only uttered a feeble baa! and fell to the earth dead.

    The man was now very much offended and said, “I’ll go to the Wind again, and I’ll tell him what a fool he has made of me.” Then he took up his hat and went, leaving everything behind him. And the poor wife put everything to rights, and reproached and railed at her husband.

    So the man came to the Wind for the third time and said, “Wilt thou tell me, please, if thou art really the Wind or no?”––“What’s the matter with thee?” asked the Wind.––“I’ll tell thee what’s the matter,” said the man; “why hast thou laughed at and mocked me and made such a fool of me?”––“I laugh at thee!” thundered the old father as he lay there on the floor and turned round on the other ear; “why didst thou not hold fast what I gave thee? Why didst thou not listen to me when I told thee not to go into the tavern, eh?”––“What tavern dost thou mean?” asked the man proudly; “as for the sack and the ram thou didst give me, they only did me a mischief; give me something else.”––“What’s the use of giving thee anything?” said the Wind; “thou wilt only take it to the tavern. Out of the drum, my twelve henchmen!” cried the Wind, “and just give this accursed drunkard a good lesson that he may keep his throat dry and listen a little more to old people!”––Immediately twelve henchmen leaped out of his drum and began giving the man a sound thrashing. Then the man saw that it was no joke and begged for mercy. “Dear old father Wind,” cried he, “be merciful, and let me get off alive. I’ll not come to thee again though I should have to wait till the Judgment Day, and I’ll do all thy behests.”––“Into the drum, my henchmen!” cried the Wind.––“And now, O man!” said the Wind, “thou mayst have this drum with the twelve henchmen, and go to those accursed Jews, and if they will not give thee back thy sack and thy ram, thou wilt know what to say.”

    So the man thanked the Wind for his good advice, and went on his way. He came to the inn, and when the Jews saw that he brought nothing with him they said, “Hearken, O man! don’t come here, for we have no brandy.”––“What do I want with your brandy?” cried the man in a rage.––“Then for what hast thou come hither?”––“I have come for my own.”––“Thy own,” said the Jews; “what dost thou mean?”––“What do I mean?” roared the man; “why, my sack and my ram, which you must give up to me.”––“What ram? What sack?” said the Jews; “why, thou didst take them away from here thyself.”––“Yes, but you changed them,” said the man.––“What dost thou mean by changed?” whined the Jews; “we will go before the magistrate, and thou shalt hear from us about this.”––“You will have an evil time of it if you go before the magistrate,” said the man; “but at any rate, give me back my own.” And he sat down upon a bench. Then the Jews caught him by the shoulders to cast him out and cried, “Be off, thou rascal! Does any one know where this man comes from? No doubt he is an evil-doer.” The man could not stand this, so he cried, “Out of the drum, my henchmen! and give the accursed Jews a sound drubbing, that they may know better than to take in honest folk!” and immediately the twelve henchmen leaped out of the drum and began thwacking the Jews finely.––“Oh, oh!” roared the Jews; “oh, dear, darling, good man, we’ll give thee whatever thou dost want, only leave off beating us! Let us live a bit longer in the world, and we will give thee back everything.”––“Good!” said the man, “and another time you’ll know better than to deceive people.” Then he cried, “Into the drum, my henchmen!” and the henchmen disappeared, leaving the Jews more dead than alive. Then they gave the man his sack and his ram, and he went home, but it was a long, long time before the Jews forgot those henchmen.

    So the man went home, and his wife and children saw him coming from afar. “Daddy is coming home now with a sack and a ram!” said she; “what shall we do? We shall have a bad time of it, we shall have nothing left at all. God defend us poor wretches! Go and hide everything, children.” So the children hastened away, but the husband came to the door and said, “Open the door!”––“Open the door thyself,” replied the wife.––Again the husband bade her open the door, but she paid no heed to him. The man was astonished. This was carrying a joke too far, so he cried to his henchmen, “Henchmen, henchmen! out of the drum, and teach my wife to respect her husband!” Then the henchmen leaped out of the drum, laid the good wife by the heels, and began to give her a sound drubbing. “Oh, my dear, darling husband!” shrieked the wife, “never to the end of my days will I be sulky with thee again. I’ll do whatever thou tellest me, only leave off beating me.”––“Then I have taught thee sense, eh?” said the man.––“Oh, yes, yes, good husband!” cried she. Then the man said: “Henchmen, henchmen! into the drum!” and the henchmen leaped into it again, leaving the poor wife more dead than alive.

    Then the husband said to her, “Wife, spread a cloth upon the floor.” The wife scudded about as nimbly as a fly, and spread a cloth out on the floor without a word. Then the husband said, “Little ram, little ram, scatter money!” And the little ram scattered money till there were piles and piles of it. “Pick it up, my children,” said the man, “and thou too, wife, take what thou wilt!”––And they didn’t wait to be asked twice. Then the man hung up his sack on a peg and said, “Sack, sack, meat and drink!” Then he caught hold of it and shook it, and immediately the table was as full as it could hold with all manner of victuals and drink. “Sit down, my children, and thou too, dear wife, and eat thy fill. Thank God, we shall now have no lack of food, and shall not have to work for it either.”

    So the man and his wife were very happy together, and were never tired of thanking the Wind. They had not had the sack and the ram very long when they grew very rich, and then the husband said to the wife, “I tell thee what, wife!”––“What?” said she.––“Let us invite my brother to come and see us.”––“Very good,” she replied; “invite him, but dost thou think he’ll come?”––“Why shouldn’t he?” asked her husband. “Now, thank God, we have everything we want. He wouldn’t come to us when we were poor and he was rich, because then he was ashamed to say that I was his brother, but now even he hasn’t got so much as we have.”

    So they made ready, and the man went to invite his brother. The poor man came to his rich brother and said, “Hail to thee, brother; God help thee!”––Now the rich brother was threshing wheat on his threshing-floor, and, raising his head, was surprised to see his brother there, and said to him haughtily, “I thank thee. Hail to thee also! Sit down, my brother, and tell us why thou hast come hither.”––“Thanks, my brother, I do not want to sit down. I have come hither to invite thee to us, thee and thy wife.”––“Wherefore?” asked the rich brother.––The poor man said, “My wife prays thee, and I pray thee also, to come and dine with us of thy courtesy.”––“Good!” replied the rich brother, smiling secretly. “I will come whatever thy dinner may be.”

    So the rich man went with his wife to the poor man, and already from afar they perceived that the poor man had grown rich. And the poor man rejoiced greatly when he saw his rich brother in his house. And his tongue was loosened, and he began to show him everything, whatsoever he possessed. The rich man was amazed that things were going so well with his brother, and asked him how he had managed to get on so. But the poor man answered, “Don’t ask me, brother. I have more to show thee yet.” Then he took him to his copper money, and said, “There are my oats, brother!” Then he took and showed him his silver money, and said, “That’s the sort of barley I thresh on my threshing-floor!” And, last of all, he took him to his gold money, and said, “There, my dear brother, is the best wheat I’ve got.”––Then the rich brother shook his head, not once nor twice, and marvelled at the sight of so many good things, and he said, “Wherever didst thou pick up all this, my brother?”––“Oh! I’ve more than that to show thee yet. Just be so good as to sit down on that chair, and I’ll show and tell thee everything.”

    Then they sat them down, and the poor man hung up his sack upon a peg. “Sack, sack, meat and drink!” he cried, and immediately the table was covered with all manner of dishes. So they ate and ate, till they were full up to the ears. When they had eaten and drunken their fill, the poor man called to his son to bring the little ram into the hut. So the lad brought in the ram, and the rich brother wondered what they were going to do with it. Then the poor man said, “Little ram, scatter money!” And the little ram scattered money, till there were piles and piles of it on the floor. “Pick it up!” said the poor man to the rich man and his wife. So they picked it up, and the rich brother and his wife marvelled, and the brother said, “Thou hast a very nice piece of goods there, brother. If I had only something like that I should lack nothing;” then, after thinking a long time, he said, “Sell it to me, my brother.”––“No,” said the poor man, “I will not sell it.”––After a little time, however, the rich brother said again, “Come now! I’ll give thee for it six yoke of oxen, and a plough, and a harrow, and a hay-fork, and I’ll give thee besides, lots of corn to sow, thus thou wilt have plenty, but give me the ram and the sack.” So at last they exchanged. The rich man took the sack and the ram, and the poor man took the oxen and went out to the plough.

    Then the poor brother went out ploughing all day, but he neither watered his oxen nor gave them anything to eat. And next day the poor brother again went out to his oxen, but found them rolling on their sides on the ground. He began to pull and tug at them, but they didn’t get up. Then he began to beat them with a stick, but they uttered not a sound. The man was surprised to find them fit for nothing, and off he ran to his brother, not forgetting to take with him his drum with the henchmen.

    When the poor brother came to the rich brother’s, he lost no time in crossing his threshold, and said, “Hail, my brother!”––“Good health to thee also!” replied the rich man, “why hast thou come hither? Has thy plough broken, or thy oxen failed thee? Perchance thou hast watered them with foul water, so that their blood is stagnant, and their flesh inflamed?”––“The murrain take ’em if I know thy meaning!” cried the poor brother. “All that I know is that I thwacked ’em till my arms ached, and they wouldn’t stir, and not a single grunt did they give; till I was so angry that I spat at them, and came to tell thee. Give me back my sack and my ram, I say, and take back thy oxen, for they won’t listen to me!”––“What! take them back!” roared the rich brother. “Dost think I only made the exchange for a single day? No, I gave them to thee once and for all, and now thou wouldst rip the whole thing up like a goat at the fair. I have no doubt thou hast neither watered them nor fed them, and that is why they won’t stand up.”––“I didn’t know,” said the poor man, “that oxen needed water and food.”––“Didn’t know!” screeched the rich man, in a mighty rage, and taking the poor brother by the hand, he led him away from the hut. “Go away,” said he, “and never come back here again, or I’ll have thee hanged on a gallows!”––“Ah! what a big gentleman we are!” said the poor brother; “just thou give me back my own, and then I will go away.”––“Thou hadst better not stop here,” said the rich brother; “come, stir thy stumps, thou pagan! Go home ere I beat thee!”––“Don’t say that,” replied the poor man, “but give me back my ram and my sack, and then I will go.”––At this the rich brother quite lost his temper, and cried to his wife and children, “Why do you stand staring like that? Can’t you come and help me to pitch this insolent rogue out of the house?” This, however, was something beyond a joke, so the poor brother called to his henchmen, “Henchmen, henchmen! out of the drum, and give this brother of mine and his wife a sound drubbing, that they may think twice about it another time before they pitch a poor brother out of their hut!” Then the henchmen leaped out of the drum, and laid hold of the rich brother and his wife, and trounced them soundly, until the rich brother yelled with all his might, “Oh, oh! my own true brother, take what thou wilt, only let me off alive!” whereupon the poor brother cried to his henchmen, “Henchmen, henchmen! into the drum!” and the henchmen disappeared immediately.

    Then the poor brother took his ram and his sack, and set off home with them. And they lived happily ever after, and grew richer and richer. They sowed neither wheat nor barley, and yet they had lots and lots to eat. And I was there, and drank mead and beer. What my mouth couldn’t hold ran down my beard. For you, there’s a kazka, but there be fat hearth-cakes for me the asker. And if I have aught to eat, thou shalt share the treat.

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