“Sayings, Wise and Otherwise,” (also in the “The Sayings of Dr. Bushwhacker and Other Wise Men”) by Frederic S. Cozzens; American Book Exchange, New York; 1880; pp. 130-135.
FROM THE LOW GERMAN OF SCHRODER.
THIS story is a tough one to tell, youngsters, but true it is for all that! for my grandfather, from whom I have it, used always to say, when he told it: “True must it be, my son, otherwise one could not tell it so at all!” And this is the way the story ran: —
’Twas on a pleasant Sunday morning, toward harvest time, just as the buckwheat blossomed. The sun had gone brightly up into the heaven; the morning wind swept warm over the stubble; the larks sang in the air; the bees hummed in the buckwheat; the good folk went in Sunday gear to church, and all creatures were happy, and the hedgehog also.
The hedgehog stood before his door with his arms folded, peeping out into the morning air, and chirruped a little song to himself, just as good and just as bad as a hedgehog is wont to sing on a pleasant Sunday morning. And as he was singing to himself, in a cheery little voice, 131 all at once it came into his head he might just as well, while his wife was washing and dressing the children, take a little walk into the field to see how his turnips were standing. Now the turnips were close to his house, and he used to eat them with his family, so that he looked upon them as his own. No sooner said than done. The hedgehog shut the house-door to after him, and took his way to the field. He had not gone very far from the house, and was about to turn, just by the thorn bush which stands there before the field, near the turnip patch, when he met the hare, who had gone out on a similar business, namely, to look after his cabbages. When the hedgehog caught sight of the hare, he bid him a friendly “good morning!” But the hare, who, in his own way, was a mighty fine gentleman, and held his head very high, answered nothing to the hedgehog’s greeting, but said to the hedgehog, putting on thereby a most scornful mien:
“How happens it, then, that thou art strolling about here in the field so early in the morning?”
“I’m taking a walk,” said the hedgehog.
“Taking a walk?” laughed the hare, “methinks thou mightest use those legs of thine for better things.”
This answer vexed the hedgehog hugely, for he could stand almost anything, but his legs he did not like to have spoken about, because they were crooked by nature.
“Thou thinkest, perhaps,” said the hedgehog to the hare, “thou could’st do more with thine own legs!”
“That’s what I do think,” said the hare.132
“That depends upon the trial,” quoth the hedgehog. “I bet that if we run a race together, I beat thee hollow!”
“That’s quite laughable, thou with thy crooked legs,” said the hare, “but I’ve nothing against it if thou art so bent upon it. What’s the bet?”
“A golden louis d’or and a bottle of brandy!” said the hedgehog.
“Done,” said the hare, “fall in, and then it may come off at once.”
“Nay, there’s no such hurry,” said the hedgehog, “I’m still quite hungry; I’ll go home and get a bit of breakfast first; within half an hour I’ll be here again on the spot.”
With this the hedgehog went his way, for the hare was also content.
On the way the hedgehog thought to himself:
“The hare trusts to his long legs, but I’ll fetch him for all that; he’s a fine gentleman to be sure, but still he’s only a stupid fellow, and pay he shall!”
Now when the hedgehog came to his house, he said to his wife: “Wife, dress thyself in my gear, quickly, thou must go with me to the field.”
“What’s all this about?” said his wife.
“I’ve bet the hare a golden louis d’or and a bottle of brandy that I could beat him in a race, and thou must be by.”
“O my husband!” began the hedgehog’s wife to cry, “art thou foolish? has thou then quite lost thine understanding? How canst thou wish to run a race with the hare?”133
“Hold thy mouth, wife,” said the hedgehog, “that’s my business; don’t meddle with men’s affairs. March! dress thyself in my clothes, and then come along.”
What could the hedgehog’s wife do? She had to follow whether she would or no. When they were on the way together, the hedgehog said to his wife: “Now listen to what I have to say. See’st thou, on the long acre yonder will we run our races. The hare runs in one furrow and I in another, and we begin to run from up there. Now thou hast nothing else to do than to take thy place here in the furrow, and when the hare comes up on the other side thou must call out to him: “I’m here already!” With this they had reached the field; the hedgehog showed his wife her place and went up the furrow. When he got to the upper end the hare was already there.
“Can we start?” said the hare.
“Yes, indeed!” said the hedgehog.
“To it then!” and with that each placed himself in his furrow, and the hare counted one, two, three! and away he went like a storm wind down the field. But the hedgehog ran about three steps, and then ducked down in the furrow and sat still.
When the hare, on the full bound, came to the lower end of the field, the hedgehog’s wife called out to him, “I’m here already!” The hare stared and wondered not a little; he thought not otherwise than that it was the hedgehog himself that ran out to meet him: for, as every 134 one knows, the hedgehog’s wife looks just like her husband.
But the hare thought: there’s something wrong about all this! Another race! At it again! And away he went again like a storm wind, so that his ears lay flat on his head. But the hedgehog’s wife staid quietly in her place. When the hare came to the upper end the hedgehog called out to him, “I’m here already.” But the hare, beside himself with rage, cried: “Another race! at it again!”
“I’m quite willing,” answered the hedgehog, “just as often as thou likest.”
So the hare ran three and seventy times, and the hedgehog held out to the very end with him. Every time the hare came either below or above, the hedgehog or his wife said, “I’m here already!”
But the four and seventieth time the hare came no more to the end. In the middle of the field he fell to the earth and lay dead upon the spot.
So the hedgehog took the louis d’or and the bottle of brandy he had won, called his wife out of the furrow, and both went home together: and if they have not died, they are living still. So happened it that on the Buxtehude heath the hedgehog ran the hare to death, and since that time no hare has ever dreamed of running a race with a Buxtehude hedgehog.
But the moral of this story is, first: that no one, however high and mighty he may think himself, shall let it 135 happen to him to make merry over an humble man, even if he be a hedgehog; and secondly, that it is advisable, when one marries, that he takes a wife out of his own condition, and who looks just like himself. He, therefore, that is a hedgehog, must look to it that his wife is also a hedgehog; and so forth.
* See Preface.
Elf.Ed — Although this footnote is in the text of Sayings, Wise and Otherwise, it has no preface and was clearly taken from The Sayings of Dr. Bushwhacker and Other Learned Men. In that Preface, Cozzens states, on p. 5, this article was published in his magazine The Wine Press and ‘Professor Walcott Gibbs, who has as exquisite taste for true humor as any writer in the country, translated the “Hare and the Hedgehog,” a story that will commend itself whenever you read it to the little people; aye, and sometimes to older folks, as I have experienced.’