124 HANS, THE MERMAID'S SON
'Willingly,' said Hans; 'but what road do I go, to get there?'
The squire stood, and did not know what to say, and had first to go in to his wife to ask her.
' Oh, what a fool you are!' said she, ' can't you direct him straight forward, south through the wood? Whether he gets there or not, we shall be quit of him.'
Out goes the squire again to Hans.
' The way lies straight forward, south through the wood,' said he.
Hans then must have his provisions for the journey; two bakings of bread, two casks of butter, two barrels ale, and two kegs of brandy. He tied all these up together, and got them on his shoulder hanging on his good walking-stick, and off he tramped southward.
After he had got through the wood, there was more than one road, and he was in doubt which of them was the right one, so he sat down and opened up his bundle of provisions. He found he had left his knife at home, but by good chance, there was a plough lying close at hand, so he took the coulter of this to cut the bread with. As he sat there and took his bite a man came riding past him.
' Where are you from? ' said Hans.
' From Purgatory,' said the man.
'Then stop and wait a little,' said Hans; but the man was in a hurry, and would not stop, so Hans ran after him and caught the horse by the tail. This brought it down on its hind legs, and the man went flying over its head into a ditch. ' Just wait a little,' said Hans; ' I am going the same way.' He got his provisions tied up again, and laid them on the horse's back; then he took hold of the reins, and said to the man, ' We two can go along together on foot.'
As they went on their way Hans told the stranger both about the errand he had on hand and the fun he had had with Old Eric. The other said but little, but he