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The Golden Lads
by [?]

A poor man and his wife lived in a little cottage, where they supported themselves by catching fish in the nearest river, and got on as best they could, living from hand to mouth. One day it happened that when the fisherman drew in his net he found in it a remarkable fish, for it was entirely of gold. As he was inspecting it with some surprise, the fish opened its mouth and said: ‘Listen to me, fisher; if you will just throw me back into the water I’ll turn your poor little cottage into a splendid castle.’

The fisher replied: ‘What good, pray, will a castle be to me if I have nothing to eat in it?’

‘Oh,’ said the gold fish, ‘I’ll take care of that. There will be a cupboard in the castle, in which you will find dishes of every kind of food you can wish for most.’

‘If that’s the case,’ said the man, ‘I’ve no objection to oblige you.’

‘Yes,’ observed the fish, ‘but there is one condition attached to my offer, and that is that you are not to reveal to a soul where your good fortune comes from. If you say a word about it, it will all vanish.’

The man threw the fish back into the water, and went home. But on the spot where his cottage used to stand he found a spacious castle. He opened his eyes wide, went in and found his wife dressed out in smart clothes, sitting in a splendidly furnished drawing-room. She was in high spirits, and cried out: ‘Oh husband! how can this all have happened? I am so pleased!’

‘Yes,’ said her husband, ‘so am I pleased; but I’m uncommonly hungry, and I want something to eat at once.’

Said his wife, ‘I’ve got nothing, and I don’t know where anything is in this new house.’

‘Never mind,’ replied the man. ‘I see a big cupboard there. Suppose you unlock it.’

When the cupboard was opened they found meat, cakes, fruit, and wine, all spread out in the most tempting fashions. The wife clapped her hands with joy, and cried: ‘Dear heart! what more can one wish for?’ and they sat down and ate and drank.

When they had finished the wife asked, ‘But husband, where do all these riches come from?’

‘Ah!’ said he, ‘don’t ask me. I dare not tell you. If I reveal the secret to anyone, it will be all up with us.’

‘Very well,’ she replied, ‘if I’m not to be told, of course I don’t want to know anything about it.’

But she was not really in earnest, for her curiosity never left her a moment’s peace by day or night, and she teazed and worried her husband to such a pitch, that at length he quite lost patience and blurted out that it all came from a wonderful golden fish which he had caught and set free again. Hardly were the words well out of his mouth, when castle, cupboard, and all vanished, and there they were sitting in their poor little fishing hut once more.

The man had to betake himself to his former trade, and set to fishing again. As luck would have it, he caught the golden fish a second time.

‘Now listen,’ said the fish, ‘if you’ll throw me back into the water, I’ll give you back the castle and the cupboard with all its good things; but now take care, and don’t for your life betray where you got them, or you’ll just lose them again.’

‘I’ll be very careful,’ promised the fisher, and threw the fish back into the water. When he went home he found all their former splendour restored, and his wife overjoyed at their good fortune. But her curiosity still continued to torment her, and after restraining it with a great effort for a couple of days, she began questioning her husband again, as to what had happened, and how he had managed.