Hans Christian Andersen

What Hubby Does is Always Right

Now I’m going to tell you a story I heard when I was small, and every time I’ve thought about it since then, I’ve felt it was even lovelier than before, for with stories it’s like it often is with people, the older they are the lovelier they get, and that’s most agreeable!

You’ve been out in the country, of course? seen a real old farmhouse complete with thatched roof, moss and plants growing there of their own accord, there’s a stork’s nest on the ridge of the roof – the stork is quite essential – the walls are lop-sided, the windows low, and there’s only one that can actually be opened, the baking oven bulges like a pot-belly, and the elder bush hangs out over the fence, where there’s a little pond with a duck or some ducklings, right under the gnarled willow tree. Yes, and a dog on a chain of course that barks at all and sundry.

Out in the countryside there was just such a farmhouse, and in it there lived a married couple, a farmer and his wife. Although they had precious little, they could still manage to do without one thing, a horse that used to graze out by the roadside. The man of the house used to ride on it into town, the neighbours borrowed it, and favours were always repaid, but even so it would be more profitable for them to sell the horse or exchange it for something or other that could be of greater benefit to them. But what could that be?

‘You’re sure to know best, hubby!’ the wife said, ‘it’s market day in town today, you ride off to market and get some money for the horse, or trade it for something good, for what you do is always right! Off you go to the market!’

And so she tied his scarf for him, for she was better at it than he was, tied it with a double bow, it looked so dashing, and then she polished his hat with the palm of her hand and kissed him on his warm mouth, and off he rode on the horse that was to be sold or traded. Yes, hubby knew what to do all right.

The sun baked down, there wasn’t a cloud in the sky! The road was dusty, there were so many people going to market, in carts, on horseback and on their own two feet. It was a scorching-hot day, and not a shadow to be seen anywhere along the way.

There was a man driving a cow that was as pretty a sight as a cow can be. ‘That must give plenty of lovely milk!’ the farmer thought, it would be quite a bargain to get hold of it. ‘Do you know what, you with the cow!’ he said, ‘don’t you think we two should have a little chat! Now I’m pretty sure a horse costs more than a cow, doesn’t it, but that’s all the same to me! I’ve more use for a cow; how about doing a swap?’

‘Fine by me,’ the man with the cow said, and so the exchange was made.

Now the exchange had been made, so the farmer could easily have turned back, after all he’d done what he wanted to, but since he had intended to go to the market, he decided to do what he’d intended, just to take a look, so on he went with his cow. He moved at quite a pace, and the cow moved at quite a pace, and soon they had caught up with a man leading a sheep. It was a good-looking sheep, plenty of meat and plenty of wool.

‘I’d very much like to own that!’ the farmer thought to himself. ‘There’s no shortage of grass by the roadside at our place, and in the winter we could take it inside the house. All in all, it makes better sense to keep a sheep than to keep a cow. Shall we do a swap?’

Yes, the man with the sheep was more than willing, and so the exchange was made and the farmer continued along the road with his sheep. When he came to the stile he saw a man with a large goose under his arm.

‘Good solid-looking goose you’ve got there!’ the farmer said, ‘plenty of feathers and plenty of fat! it would make a fine sight tied up down by our little pond! really something for the missus to collect scraps for! She’s often said “If only we had a goose!”, now she can have one – and she shall have one! Prepared to swap? I’ll give you the sheep for the goose, and my thanks as well!’

And yes, the other man was quite willing, so the exchange was made; the farmer got the goose. He was close to the town now, the road was getting more and more crowded, there was a throng of people and farm animals, moving along the road and the verges too, right up close to the tollkeeper’s potato patch, where his hen stood tied up so it wouldn’t run off and get lost from sheer fright. It was a short-tailed hen that winked with one eye, and was good to look at. ‘Cluck, cluck!’ it said, what it meant by that I can’t say, but when the farmer saw it he thought: ‘She’s the loveliest hen I’ve ever seen, she’s even lovelier than the vicar’s broody hen, I’d love to own her! a hen can always find a grain of corn or two, it can almost look after itself! I think I’d be making a good bargain if I swapped the goose for it!’ ‘Care to swap?’ he asked. ‘Swap?’ the other man said, ‘yes, that’s not a bad idea!’ and so the exchange was made. The tollkeeper got the goose, the farmer got the hen.

He had managed to do quite a lot on his way to town, and it was hot, and he was tired. A snifter and a bite of bread was what he needed; he was by the inn now and wanted to go in, but the innkeeper’s helper wanted to go out at that moment and he met him in the doorway, swinging a bag that was full of something.

‘What have you got there?’ the farmer asked.

‘Rotten apples!’ the man answered, ‘ a whole sackful for the pigs!’

‘That’s an awful lot! I wouldn’t begrudge the missus a sight of that. Last year we only had one single apple on the old tree by the peat shed! that apple was to be kept, and it stood on the chest of drawers till it split. It’s a sign of affluence! the missus said, now here she could really see affluence! Yes, I wouldn’t begrudge her the sight of that!’

‘Well, what will you give?’ the man said.

‘Give? I’ll swap my hen for them,’ and then he gave him the hen in exchange, got the apples and went into the tap-room, straight over to the counter, placed his sack with apples against the tiled stove, and that it was lit never entered his mind. There were lots of strangers in the tap-room, horse dealers, cattle dealers and two Englishmen, and they are so rich that their pockets are bursting with gold coins; and they make bets, as you shall hear!

‘Sisssh! sissh!’ What was that sound coming from the tiled stove?’ The apples were starting to roast.

‘What’s that?’ Well, they soon found out! they were given the whole story of the horse exchanged for the cow and right down to the rotten apples.

‘Well, well! Your old woman will give you a cuffing when you get home!’ the Englishmen said, ‘one that would flatten a house!’

‘I’ll get kisses not cuffing!’ the farmer said, ‘the missus will say: “What hubby does is always right!”’

‘Prepared to bet on that?’ they said, ‘Gold coins by the pound, three hundredweight of them!’

‘That’s a great many bushels of corn!’ the farmer said. I can only match it in apples plus myself and the missus, but that makes more than just a level measure, that’s a topped measure.’

‘Topped is topping!’ they said, and so the bet was made.

The innkeeper’s cart was brought out, the English climbed aboard, the farmer climbed aboard, the rotten apples came aboard, and off they went to the farmer’s house.

‘Good evening, missus!’

‘Likewise, hubby!’

‘I’ve done my exchanging!’

‘Yes, and made a grand bargain, I’m sure!’ the wife said, and took him by the waist, forgetting all about the bag and the strangers.

‘I’ve swapped the horse for a cow!’

‘God be praised for the milk!’ the wife said, ‘now we can have milk products, butter and cheese on the table. That was a fine exchange!’

‘Yes, but I then swapped the cow for a sheep!’

‘That’s clearly a better bargain too!’ the wife said, ‘you’re always so thoughtful – we’ve got just about the right amount of grazing for a sheep. Now we can have sheep’s milk and sheep’s cheese and woollen stockings, even a woollen nightgown! That’s something a cow can’t do, all the hairs fall out! You are an exceedingly thoughtful man!’

‘But I’ve swapped the sheep for a goose!’

‘Are we really going to have goose for Martinmas Eve, my little hubby! You’re always thinking of ways to please me! Such a beautiful thought on your part! The goose can be tied up and fatten up even more by Martinmas!’

‘But I’ve swapped the goose for a hen!’ the man said.

‘A hen! That was a good exchange,’ the wife said. ‘The hen lays eggs, it hatches out chickens, we’ll have a hen run! that’s just what I’ve always wanted!’

‘Yes, but I swapped the hen for a bag of rotten apples!’

‘Now I must give you a kiss!’ the wife said. ‘Thank you, my own dear husband! Let me tell you something. While you were away, I decided to make a really good meal for you: a country omelette with chives. The eggs I already had. There were no chives, though. So I went over to the schoolmaster’s, they’ve got chives there, I knew that, but his wife is so stingy, the sweet-talking brute! I asked her if I could borrow – “Borrow!” she said. “Nothing will grow in our garden, not even a rotten apple!” and I couldn’t even lend you that! Now I can lend her ten – a whole bagful! What a laugh, hubby!’ and she planted a kiss right on his mouth.

‘This I like!’ the Englishmen said. ‘Always downhill and always just as happy! it’s well worth the money!’ and so they paid the three hundredweight of gold coins to the farmer who was kissed and not cuffed.

You see, it always pays for the wife to realise and explain that her hubby is always the cleverest and what he does is always right.

Now this is some story! I heard it when I was small, and now you’ve heard it too and know that what hubby does is always right.

Del

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Hans Christian Andersen: What Hubby Does is Always Right. Translated by John Irons, edited by , published by The Hans Christian Andersen Centre, University of Southern Denmark, Odense. Version 1.0. Published 2024-04-01[INFO OM 18-binds-udgaven 2003-2009...] for Det Danske Sprog- og Litteraturselskab. Digitaliseret af Holger Berg til sitet hcandersen.dk

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