The Two Soldiers French folktale

Once there were two soldiers who were about sixty years old. Having to leave the service, they determined to return to their country. As they were journeying along, they said one to the other,

"What are we going to do to get our living? We are too old to learn a trade; if we beg our bread, we shall be told we are not too old to work, and nothing will be given us."

"Let us draw lots," said one of them, "who will let his eyes be put out, and we will go begging together."

The other one thought it a good idea. The lot fell on the one who made the proposition; his comrade put out his eyes, and, one leading the other, they went from door to door begging their bread. A great deal was given to them. But the blind man got but little good of it; his companion kept all that was good for himself, and gave him only the bones and crusts of hard bread.

"Alas!" said the unfortunate creature, "is it not enough to be blind? Must I be so badly treated also?"

"If you complain again," said the other, "I will leave you here,"

But the poor blind man could not help complaining. At last his companion left him in a forest.

After having wandered all about, the blind man stopped at the foot of a tree.

"What will become of me?" said he to himself. "Night is coming, and the wild beasts will devour me."

He climbed up into a tree for safety. Towards eleven or twelve o'clock four animals came to the same place, the fox, the wild boar, the wolf, and the roebuck.

"I know something," said the fox; "but I will not tell it to anyone."

"I also know something," said the wolf.

"And I also," said the roebuck.

"Pshaw!" said the wild boar, "you, with your little horns, what do you know?"

"Ah!" remarked the roebuck, "there is a great deal of wit in my little brain and in my little horns."

"Well," said the wild boar, "let each one tell what he knows,"

The fox began, "There is a little river near here whose water will restore the sight of the blind. I have had an eye put out several times in my life; I bathed in that water, and I was healed."

"I know that river too," said the wolf; "I have known it longer than you. The king's daughter is very sick; she is promised in marriage to the one who will cure her. To give her water of this river would be quite enough to restore her health."

The wild boar said in his turn, "The city of Lyons is in need of water, and they have promised fifteen thousand francs to the one who shall be able to get a supply for it. Now, if they would dig up the oak of liberty, they would find a spring, and they would have an abundance of water."

"I," said the wild boar, "I know nothing."

Then the animals separated.

"Ah!" said the blind man to himself, "if I could only find that spring!"

He got down from the tree, and went groping through the country. At last he came to the river. There he bathed his eyes, and he began to see again; he bathed them again, and his sight was perfectly restored.

Then he went at once to the mayor of Lyons, and told him that if they wanted water they had only to pull up the oak of liberty. Sure enough! When the oak was dug up, they discovered a spring; and the city had as much water as was needed. The soldier got the promised fifteen thousand francs, and went to see the king.

"Sire," said he to him, "I have heard that your daughter is very sick; and I have something that will cure her."

And he told him of the water of the river. The king sent one of his footmen at once for some of the water. They made the princess drink it, they made her take baths of it, and she was cured.

The king said to the soldier,

"Although you are a little old, you shall marry my daughter. Or else, if you prefer it, I will give you some money."

The soldier preferred to marry the princess, as he knew very well that with the daughter he would have the money also. The marriage took place without delay.

One day when the soldier was taking a walk in the garden, he saw a man all in rags who was asking charity; he recognized at once his old comrade.

"Were there not two of you begging formerly?" said he to him as he came up to him. "Where is your companion?"

"He is dead," answered the beggar.

"Tell the truth; you will not repent of it. What has become of him?"

"I abandoned him."


"He was always complaining. It was always he who got the good pieces; when we had bread, I gave him the crumbs, because he had no teeth, and I ate the crusts; I gave him the meat, and kept the bones for myself."

"It is a lie! You did just the opposite. Would you recognize your companion today?"

"I do not know."

"Well, I am that companion."

"But are you not a nobleman?"

"I am the king's son-in-law, but I am also your old comrade. Come in; I will tell you all about it."

When the beggar learned all that had happened to the blind man, he said to him,

"I would like to have the same luck. Take me to that same tree; perhaps the animals will come there again."

"Willingly," said the other; "I am willing to return you good for evil."

He took the beggar to the tree; and the beggar climbed up into it.

About eleven or twelve o'clock, the four animals gathered there again.

The fox said to the others, "What we said the other night was overheard; the king's daughter is cured, and the city of Lyons has water. Who, then, has revealed our secrets?"

"Not I," said the wolf.

"Nor I," said the roebuck.

"I am sure that it is the wild boar," said the fox; "he had nothing to say himself, and he went and told what the others said."

"It is not true," answered the wild boar.

"Take care!" said the fox; "we shall all three be against you."

"I am not afraid of you," said the wild boar, showing his teeth; "don't even try to meddle with me!"

Suddenly raising their eyes, they saw the beggar up in the tree.

"Oh! oh!" said they, "here is a man who is spying on us."

At once they set to work to root up the tree. Then they seized on the man and devoured him.