The Skillful Huntsman by Howard Pyle

Once upon a time there was a lad named Jacob Boehm, who was a practical huntsman.

One day Jacob said to his mother, “Mother, I would like to marry Gretchen–the nice, pretty little daughter of the Herr Mayor.”

Jacob’s mother thought that he was crazy. “Marry the daughter of the Herr Mayor, indeed! You want to marry the daughter of the Herr Mayor? Listen; many a man wants and wants, and nothing comes of it!”

That was what Jacob Boehm’s mother said to him.

But Jacob was deaf in that ear; nothing would do but his mother must go to the Herr Mayor, and ask for leave for him to marry Gretchen. And Jacob begged and begged so prettily that at last his mother promised to go and do as he wished. So off she went, though doubt was heavy in her shoes, for she did not know how the Herr Mayor would take it.

“So Jacob wants to marry Gretchen, does he?” said the Herr Mayor.

Yes; that was what Jacob wanted.

“And is he a practical huntsman?” said the Herr Mayor.

Oh yes, he was that.

“So good,” said the Herr Mayor. “Then tell Jacob that when he is such a clever huntsman as to be able to shoot the whiskers off from a running hare without touching the skin, then he can have Gretchen.”

By-and-by they saw a wren. “Shoot at that,” said the red one.

“Oh no,” said Jacob, “that is too small.”

So they went on a little farther.

By-and-by they saw a raven. “Shoot at that, then,” said the red one.

“Oh no,” said Jacob, “that is too black.”

So they went on a little farther.

By-and-by they came to a ploughed field, and there was something skipping over the furrows that looked for all the world like a great bird. That was Gretchen; for the feathers stuck to the honey and all over her, so that she looked just like a great bird.

“Shoot at that! shoot at that!” said the red one, clapping his hands together.

“Oh yes,” said Jacob, “I will shoot at that.” So he raised his gun and took aim. Then he lowered his gun again. “But what is it?” said he.

At this the red one screwed up his eyes, and looked and looked, but for the life of him he could not tell what it was.

“No matter what it is,” said he, “only shoot and be done with it, for I must be going.”

“Yes, good! But what is it?” said Jacob.

Then the red one looked and looked again, but he could tell no better this time than he could before. “It may be this and it may be that,” said he. “Only shoot and be done with it, for they are waiting for me at home.”

“Yes, my friend,” said Jacob, “that is all very good; only tell me what it is and I will shoot.”

“Thunder and lightning!” bawled the red one, “I do not know what it is!”

“Then be off with you!” said Jacob, “for, since you cannot answer my question, all is over between us two.”

At this the red one had to leave Jacob, so he fled away over hill and dale, bellowing like a bull.

As for Jacob and Gretchen, they went back home together, very well pleased with each other and themselves.

And the meaning of all this is, that many another
man beside Jacob Boehm would find himself
in a pretty scrape only for his wife.

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