The Fisherman and His Wife
One day, he was sitting with his rod and looking into the clear water, and he sat and sat.
At last down went the line to the bottom of the water, and when he drew it up, he found a great flounder on the hook. And the flounder said to him, "Fisherman, listen to me; let me go — I am not a real fish but an enchanted prince. What good shall I be to you if you land me? I shall not taste well; so put me back into the water again, and let me swim away."
"Well," said the fisherman, "no need of so many words about the matter; as you can speak, I had much rather let you swim away."
Then he put him back into the clear water, and the flounder sank to the bottom, leaving a long streak of blood behind him. Then the fisherman got up and went home to his wife in their hovel.
"Well, husband," said the wife, "have you caught nothing to-day?"
"No," said the man — "that is, I did catch a flounder, but as he said he was an enchanted prince, I let him go again."
"Then, did you wish for nothing?" said the wife.
"No," said the man; "what should I wish for?"
"Oh dear!" said the wife; "and it is so dreadful always to live in this evil-smelling hovel; you might as well have wished for a little cottage; go again and call him; tell him we want a little cottage, I daresay he will give it us; go, and be quick."
And when he went back, the sea was green and yellow, and not nearly so clear. So he stood and said,
O man, O man! — if man you be,
Or flounder, flounder, in the sea —
Such a tiresome wife I've got,
For she wants what I do not."
Then the flounder came swimming up and said, "Now then, what does she want?"
"Oh," said the man, "you know when I caught you my wife says I ought to have wished for something. She does not want to live any longer in the hovel and would rather have a cottage.
"Go home with you," said the flounder; "she has it already."
So the man went home and found, instead of the hovel, a little cottage, and his wife was sitting on a bench before the door. And she took him by the hand, and said to him, "Come in and see if this is not a great improvement."
So they went in, and there was a little house-place and a beautiful little bedroom, a kitchen and larder, with all sorts of furniture, and iron and brass ware of the very best. And at the back was a little yard with fowls and ducks, and a little garden full of green vegetables and fruit.
"Look," said the wife, "is not that nice?"
"Yes," said the man, "if this can only last, we shall be very well contented."
"We will see about that," said the wife. And after a meal they went to bed.
So all went well for a week or fortnight, when the wife said, "Look here, husband, the cottage is really too confined, and the yard and garden are so small; I think the flounder had better get us a larger house. I should like very much to live in a large stone castle; so, go to your fish and he will send us a castle."
"O my dear wife," said the man, "the cottage is good enough; what do we want a castle for?"
"We want one," said the wife; "go along with you; the flounder can give us one."
"Now, wife," said the man, "the flounder gave us the cottage; I do not like to go to him again — he may be angry."
"Go along," said the wife; "he might just as well give us it as not; do as I say!"
The man felt very reluctant and unwilling; and he said to himself, "It is not the right thing to do," — nevertheless he went.