Once on a time there was a man, and he had a wife; they had a son and a daughter who were twins, and they were so like, no one could tell the one from the other by anything else than their clothing. The boy they called Peik. He was of little good while his father and mother lived, for he had no mood to do aught else than to befool folk, and he was so full of tricks and pranks that no one could be at peace for him; but when they were dead it got worse and worse, he wouldn't turn his hand to anything; all he would do was to squander what they left behind them, and as for his neighbours he fell out with all of them. His sister toiled and moiled all she could, but it helped little; so at last she said to him how silly this was that he would do naught for her house, and ended by asking him,
'What shall we have to live on when you have wasted everything?'
'Oh, I'll go out and befool somebody,' said Peik.
'Yes, Peik, I'll be bound you'll do that soon enough,' said his sister.
'Well, I'll try,' said Peik.
So at last they had nothing more, for there was an end of everything; and Peik trotted off, and walked and walked till he came to the king's grange. There stood the King in the porch, and as soon as he set eyes on the lad, he said,--
'Whither away to-day, Peik?'
'Oh, I was going out to see if I could befool anybody,' said Peik.
'Can't you befool me, now?' said the King.
'No, I'm sure I can't,' said Peik, 'for I've forgotten my fooling rods at home.'
'Can't you go and fetch them?' said the King, 'for I should be very glad to see if you are such a trickster as folks say.'
'I've no strength to walk,' said Peik.
'I'll lend you a horse and saddle,' said the King.
'But I can't ride either,' said Peik.
'Then we'll lift you up,' said the King, 'then you'll be able to stick on.'
Well, Peik stood and clawed and scratched his head, as though he would pull the hair off, and let them lift him up into the saddle, and there he sat swinging this side and that so long as the King could see him, and the King laughed till the tears came into his eyes, for such a tailor on horseback he had never before seen. But when Peik was come well into the wood behind the hill, so that he was out of the King's sight, he sat as though he were nailed to the horse, and off he rode as though he had stolen both steed and bridle, and when he got to the town, he sold both horse and saddle.
All the while the King walked up and down, and loitered and waited for Peik to come tottering back again with his fooling rods; and every now and then he laughed when he called to mind how wretched he looked as he sat swinging about on the horse like a sack of corn, not knowing on which side to fall off; but this lasted for seven lengths and seven breadths, and no Peik came, and so at last the King saw that he was fooled and cheated out of his horse and saddle, even though Peik had not his fooling rods with him. And so there was another story, for the King got wroth, and was all for setting off to kill Peik.
But Peik had found out the day he was coming, and told his sister she must put on the big boiler with a drop of water in it. But just as the King came in Peik dragged the boiler off the fire and ran off with it to the chopping-block, and so boiled the porridge on the block.
The King wondered at that, and wondered on and on so much that he clean forgot what brought him there.
'What do you want for that pot?' said he.
'I can't spare it,' said Peik.
'Why not?' said the King, 'I'll pay what you ask.'
'No, no!' said Peik. 'It saves me time and money, woodhire and choppinghire, carting and carrying.'
'Never mind,' said the King, 'I'll give you a hundred dollars. It's true you've fooled me out of a horse and saddle, and bridle besides, but all that shall go for nothing if I can only get the pot.'
'Well! if you must have it you must,' said Peik.
When the King got home he asked guests and made a feast, but the meat was to be boiled in the new pot, and so he took it up and set it in the middle of the floor. The guests thought the King had lost his wits, and went about elbowing one another, and laughing at him. But he walked round and round the pot, and cackled and chattered, saying all in a breath--
'Well, well! bide a bit, bide a bit! 'twill boil in a minute.'
But there was no boiling. So he saw that Peik had been out again with his fooling rods and cheated him, and now he would set off at once and slay him.
When the King came Peik stood out by the barn door. 'Wouldn't it boil?' he asked.
'No! it would not,' said the King; 'but now you shall smart for it,' and so he was just going to unsheath his knife.
'I can well believe that,' said Peik, 'for you did not take the block too.'
'I wish I thought,' said the King, 'you weren't telling me a pack of lies.'
'I tell you it's all because of the block it stands on; it won't boil without it,' said Peik.
'Well; what did he want for it?' It was well worth three hundred dollars; but for the King's sake it should go for two. So he got the block and travelled home with it, and bade guests again, and made a feast, and set the pot on the chopping-block in the middle of the room. The guests thought he was both daft and mad, and they went about making game of him, while he cackled and chattered round the pot, calling out 'Bide a bit, now it boils! now it boils in a trice.'
But it wouldn't boil a bit more on the block than on the bare floor. So he saw again that Peik had been out with his fooling rods this time too. Then he fell a-tearing his hair, and swore he would set off at once and slay him. He wouldn't spare him this time, whether he put a good or a bad face on it.
But Peik had taken steps to meet him again. He slaughtered a wether and caught the blood in the bladder, and stuffed it into his sister's bosom, and told her what to say and do.
'Where's Peik!' screeched out the King. He was in such a rage that his tongue faltered.
He is so poorly that he can't stir hand or foot,' she said, 'and now he's trying to get a nap.'
'Wake him up,' said the King.
'Nay, I daren't; he is so hasty,' said the sister.
'Well! I'm hastier still,' said the King, 'and if you don't wake him, I will,' and with that he tapped his side where his knife hung.
Well! she would go and wake him; but Peik turned hastily in his bed, drew out a little knife, and ripped open the bladder in her bosom, so that a stream of blood gushed out, and down she fell on the floor, as though she were dead.
'What a dare devil you are, Peik,' said the King, 'if you haven't stabbed your sister to death, and here I stood by and saw it with my own eyes.'
'There's no risk with her body so long as there's breath in my nostrils;' and with that he pulled out a ramshorn, and began to toot upon it, and when he had tooted a bridal tune, he put the end to her body, and blew life into her again, and up she rose as though there was naught the matter with her.
'Bless me, Peik! can you kill folk and blow life into them again? Can you do that?' said the King.
'Why!' said Peik, 'how could I get on at all if I couldn't? I'm always killing everyone I come near; don't you know I'm very hasty.'
'So am I hot-tempered,' said the King, 'and that horn I must have; I'll give you a hundred dollars for it, and besides I'll forgive you for cheating me out of my horse, and for fooling me about the pot and the block, and all else.'
Peik was very loth to part with it, but for his sake he would let him have it, and so the King went off home with it, and he had hardly got back before he must try it. So he fell a-wrangling and quarrelling with the Queen and his eldest daughter, and they paid him back in the same coin; but before they knew a word about it he whipped out his knife and cut their throats, so that they fell down stone dead, and everyone else ran out of the room, they were so afraid.
The King walked and paced about the floor for a while, and kept chattering that there was no harm done, so long as there was breath in him, and a pack of such stuff which had flowed out of Peik's mouth, and then he pulled out the horn and began to blow 'Toot-i-too, Toot-i-too,' but though he blew and tooted as hard as he could all that day and the next too, he couldn't blow life into them again. Dead they were, and dead they stayed, both the Queen and his daughter, and he was forced to buy graves for them in the churchyard, and to spend money on their funeral ale into the bargain.
So he must and would go and cut Peik off; but Peik had his spies out, and knew when the King was coming, and then he said to his sister,--
'Now you must change clothes with me and set off. If you will do that you may have all we have got.'
Well! she changed clothes with him, and packed up and started off as fast as she could; but Peik sat all alone in his sister's clothes.
'Where is that Peik?' said the King, as he came in a towering rage through the door.
'He has run away,' said Peik.
'Ah! had he been at home,' said the King, 'I'd have slain him on the spot. It's no good sparing the life of such a rogue.'
'Yes! he knew by his spies that your Majesty was coming, and was going to take his life for his wicked tricks; but he has left me all alone without a morsel of bread or a penny in my purse,' said Peik, who made himself as soft and mealy-mouthed as a young lady.
'Come along then to the King's Grange, and you shall have enough to live on. There's no good sitting here and starving in this cabin by yourself,' said the King.
Yes! he was glad to do that; so the King took him with him, and had him taught everything, and treated him as his own daughter, and it was almost as if the King had his three daughters again, for Miss Peik sewed and stitched, and sung and played with the others, and was with them early and late.
After a time a king's son came to look for a wife.
'Yes! I have three daughters,' said the King; 'it rests with you which you will have?'
So he got leave to go up to their bower to make friends with them, and the end was that he liked Miss Peik best, and threw a silk kerchief into her lap as a love token. So they set to work to get ready the bridal feast, and in a little while his kinsfolk came, and the King's men, and they all fell to feasting and drinking on the bridal eve; but as night was falling Miss Peik daren't stay longer, but ran away from the King's Grange, out into the wide world, and the bride was lost; but there was worse behind, for just then both the other princesses felt very queer, and all at once two little princes came travelling into the world, and folk had to break up and go home just as the fun and feasting were highest.
The King got both wroth and sorrowful, and began to wonder if it wasn't Peik again that had a finger in this pie.
So he mounted his horse and rode out, for he thought it dull work staying at home; but when he got out among the ploughed fields, there sat Peik on a stone playing on a Jews' harp.
'What! are you sitting there, Peik?' said the King.
'Here I sit, sure enough,' said Peik. 'Where else should I sit?"
'Now you have cheated me foully, time after time,' said the King; 'but now you must come along home with me, and I'll kill you.'
'Well, well,' said Peik, 'if it can't be helped it can't; I suppose I must go along with you.'
When they got home to the King's Grange, they got ready a cask which Peik was to be put in, and when it was ready they carted it up to a high fell; there he was to lie three days thinking on all the evil he had done, then they were to roll him down the fell into the firth.
The third day a rich man passed by, but Peik sat inside the cask and sang,--
'To heaven's bliss and Paradise, To heaven's bliss and Paradise.
'I'd sooner far stay here and not be made an angel.'
When the man heard that, he asked what he would take to change places with him.
'It ought to be a good sum,' said Peik, 'for there wasn't a coach ready to start for Paradise every day.'
So the man said he would give all he had, and so he knocked out the head of the cask and crept into it instead of Peik.
'A happy journey,' said the King, when he came to roll him down; 'now you'll go faster to the firth than if you were in a sledge with reindeer; and now it's all over with you and your fooling rods.'
Before the cask was half-way down the fell, there wasn't a whole stave of it left, nor a limb of him who was inside. But when the King came back to the Grange, Peik was there before him, and sat in the courtyard playing on the Jews' harp.
'What! you sitting here, you Peik?'
'Yes! here I sit, sure enough; where else should I sit?' said Peik. 'Maybe I can get house-room here for all my horses and sheep and money.'
'But whither was it that I rolled you that you got all this wealth?' asked the King.
'Oh, you rolled me into the firth,' said Peik, 'and when I got to the bottom there was more than enough and to spare, both of horses and sheep and of gold and silver. The cattle went about in great flocks, and the gold and silver lay in large heaps as big as houses.'
'What will you take to roll me down the same way?' asked the King.
'Oh,' said Peik, 'it costs little or nothing to do it. Besides, you took nothing from me, and so I'll take nothing from you either.'
So he stuffed the King into a cask and rolled him over, and when he had given him a ride down to the firth for nothing, he went home to the King's Grange. Then he began to hold his bridal feast with the youngest princess, and afterwards he ruled both land and realm, but he kept his fooling rods to himself, and kept them so well that nothing was ever afterwards heard of Peik and his tricks, but only of OURSELF THE KING.