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Farmer Weatherbeard
by [?]

THERE was once upon a time a man and a woman who had an only son, and he was called Jack. The woman thought that it was his duty to go out to service, and told her husband that he was to take him somewhere.

‘You must get him such a good place that he will become master of all masters,’ she said, and then she put some food and a roll of tobacco into a bag for them.

Well, they went to a great many masters, but all said that they could make the lad as good as they were themselves, but better than that they could not make him. When the man came home to the old woman with this answer, she said, ‘I shall be equally well pleased whatever you do with him; but this I do say, that you are to have him made a master over all masters.’ Then she once more put some food and a roll of tobacco into the bag, and the man and his son had to set out again.

When they had walked some distance they got upon the ice, and there they met a man in a carriage who was driving a black horse.

‘Where are you going?’ he said.

‘I have to go and get my son apprenticed to someone who will be able to teach him a trade, for my old woman comes of such well-to-do folk that she insists on his being taught to be master of all masters,’ said the man.

‘We are not ill met, then,’ said the man who was driving, ‘for I am the kind of man who can do that, and I am just looking out for such an apprentice. Get up behind with you,’ he said to the boy, and off the horse went with them straight up into the air.

‘No, no, wait a little!’ screamed the father of the boy. ‘I ought to know what your name is and where you live.’

‘Oh, I am at home both in the north and the south and the east and the west, and I am called Farmer Weatherbeard,’ said the master. ‘You may come here again in a year’s time, and then I will tell you if the lad suits me.’ And then they set off again and were gone.

When the man got home the old woman inquired what had become of the son.

‘Ah! Heaven only knows what has become of him!’ said the man. ‘They went up aloft.’ And then he told her what had happened.

But when the woman heard that, and found that the man did not at all know either when their son would be out of his apprentice- ship, or where he had gone, she packed him off again to find out, and gave him a bag of food and a roll of tobacco to take away with him.

When he had walked for some time he came to a great wood, and it stretched before him all day long as he went on, and when night began to fall he saw a great light, and went towards it. After a long, long time he came to a small hut at the foot of a rock, outside which an old woman was standing drawing water up from a well with her nose, it was so long.

‘Good-evening, mother,’ said the man.

‘Good-evening to you too,’ said the old woman. ‘No one has called me mother this hundred years.’

‘Can I lodge here to-night?’ said the man.

‘No,’ said the old woman. But the man took out his roll of tobacco, lighted a little of it, and then gave her a whiff. Then she was so delighted that she began to dance, and thus the man got leave to stay the night there. It was not long before he asked about Farmer Weatherbeard.

She said that she knew nothing about him, but that she ruled over all the four-footed beasts, and some of them might know him. So she gathered them all together by blowing a whistle which she had, and questioned them, but there was not one of them which knew anything about Farmer Weatherbeard.