274 WHICH WAS THE FOOLISHEST?
home, and in the morning at nine o'clock the woman put him on a long flannel garment, and called to the undertaker's men to fasten down the lid and carry him to the grave, where all their friends were waiting them. Just as the body was being placed in the ground the other woman's husband came running up, dressed, as far as anyone could see, in no clothes at all. Everybody burst into shouts of laughter at the sight of him, and the men laid down the coffin and laughed too, till their sides nearly split. The dead man was so astonished at this behaviour, that he peeped out of a little window in the side of the coffin, and cried out:
' I should laugh as loudly as any of you, if I were not a dead man.'
When they heard the voice coming from the coffin the other people suddenly stopped laughing, and stood as if they had been turned into stone. Then they rushed with one accord to the coffin, and lifted the lid so that the man could step out amongst them.
' Were you really not dead after all ?' asked they. ' And if not, why did you let yourself be buried ?'
At this the wives both confessed that they had each wished to prove that her husband was stupider than the other. But the villagers declared that they could not decide which was the most foolish—the man who allowed himself to be persuaded that he was wearing fine clothes when he was dressed in nothing, or the man who let himself be buried when he was alive and well.
So the women quarrelled just as much as they did before, and no one ever knew whose husband was the most foolish.
[Adapted from the A'euislandische Volksma/'chen.]