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The Story of Halfman
by [?]

In a certain town there lived a judge who was married but had no children. One day he was standing lost in thought before his house, when an old man passed by.

‘What is the matter, sir, said he, ‘you look troubled?’

‘Oh, leave me alone, my good man!’

‘But what is it?’ persisted the other.

‘Well, I am successful in my profession and a person of importance, but I care nothing for it all, as I have no children.’

Then the old man said, ‘Here are twelve apples. If your wife eats them, she will have twelve sons.’

The judge thanked him joyfully as he took the apples, and went to seek his wife. ‘Eat these apples at once,’ he cried, ‘and you will have twelve sons.’

So she sat down and ate eleven of them, but just as she was in the middle of the twelfth her sister came in, and she gave her the half that was left.

The eleven sons came into the world, strong and handsome boys; but when the twelfth was born, there was only half of him.

By-and-by they all grew into men, and one day they told their father it was high time he found wives for them. ‘I have a brother,’ he answered, ‘who lives away in the East, and he has twelve daughters; go and marry them.’ So the twelve sons saddled their horses and rode for twelve days, till they met an old woman.

‘Good greeting to you, young men!’ said she, ‘we have waited long for you, your uncle and I. The girls have become women, and are sought, in marriage by many, but I knew you would come one day, and I have kept them for you. Follow me into my house.’

And the twelve brothers followed her gladly, and their father’s brother stood at the door, and gave them meat and drink. But at night, when every one was asleep, Halfman crept softly to his brothers, and said to them, ‘Listen, all of you! This man is no uncle of ours, but an ogre.’

‘Nonsense; of course he is our uncle,’ answered they.

‘Well, this very night you will see!’ said Halfman. And he did not go to bed, but hid himself and watched.

Now in a little while he saw the wife of the ogre steal into the room on tiptoe and spread a red cloth over the brothers and then go and cover her daughters with a white cloth. After that she lay down and was soon snoring loudly. When Halfman was quite sure she was sound asleep, he took the red cloth from his brothers and put it on the girls, and laid their white cloth over his brothers. Next he drew their scarlet caps from their heads and exchanged them for the veils which the ogre’s daughters were wearing. This was hardly done when he heard steps coming along the floor, so he hid himself quickly in the folds of a curtain. There was only half of him!

The ogress came slowly and gently along, stretching out her hands before her, so that she might not fall against anything unawares, for she had only a tiny lantern slung at her waist, which did not give much light. And when she reached the place where the sisters were lying, she stooped down and held a corner of the cloth up to the lantern. Yes! it certainly was red! Still, to make sure that there was no mistake, she passed her hands lightly over their heads, and felt the caps that covered them. Then she was quite certain the brothers lay sleeping before her, and began to kill them one by one. And Halfman whispered to his brothers, ‘Get up and run for your lives, as the ogress is killing her daughters.’ The brothers needed no second bidding, and in a moment were out of the house.

By this time the ogress had slain all her daughters but one, who awoke suddenly and saw what had happened. ‘Mother, what are you doing?’ cried she. ‘Do you know that you have killed my sisters?’