214 JESPER WHO HERDED THE HARES
There was no help for it, and a pretty figure the old vady made in carrying out her task ; the cackling wasn't very well done, but Jesper said it would do, and gave her the hare. As soon as she had left the field, the whistle was sounded again, and back came long-legs-and-ears at a marvellous speed.
The next to appear on the same errand was a fat old fellow in the dress of a groom : it was the royal livery he wore, and he plainly thought a good deal of himself.
' Young man,' said he, ' I want one of those hares; name your price, but I must have one of them.'
' All right,' said Jesper ; ' you can have one at an easy rate. Just stand on your head, whack your heels together, and cry " Hurrah," and the hare is yours.'
' Eh, what!' said the old fellow ; ' me stand on my head ; what an idea ! '
' Oh, very well,' said Jesper, ' you needn't unless you like, you know ; but then you won't get the hare.'
It went very much against the grain, one could see, but after some efforts the old fellow had his head on the grass and his heels in the air; the whacking and the ' Hurrah ' were rather feeble, but Jesper was not very exacting, and the hare was handed over. Of course, it wasn't long in coming back again, like the others.
Evening came, and home came Jesper with the hundred hares behind him. Great was the wonder over all the palace, and the king and queen seemed very much put out, but it was noticed that the princess actually smiled to Jesper.
' Well, well,' said the king; ' you have done that very well indeed. If you are as successful with a little task which I shall give you to-morrow we shall consider the matter settled, and you shall marry the princess.'
Next day it was announced that the task would be performed in the great hall of the palace, and everyone was invited to come and witness it. The king and queen sat on their thrones, with the princess beside them, and