Baker's Magic Wand
The Baker's Magic Wand
ONCE very long ago in the days when Canada was owned by the French there lived on the banks of a great river a wicked lawyer who was in love with a baker's wife. He tried in various ways to get rid of the baker, but without success. They lived not far from the Seigneur who owned all the land around and was very powerful. Now, in front of the Seigneur's palace there was a great lake of more than twelve thousand acres. One morning the lawyer went to the palace and knocked at the door. When the Seigneur came out, he said to him, "Sire, there is a man not far from here who boasts that in less than twice twenty-four hours he can change this lake into a beautiful meadow covered with grass that would give hay enough for all your horses and would be to the great advantage of the colony." Then the Seigneur said, "Who is this man?" The lawyer answered, "He is no less than the baker who furnishes your household with bread." So the Seigneur said, "I will send for him."
The lawyer went away, and the Seigneur sent a letter to the baker saying that he wanted to see him. The poor baker thought he was to get his pay for the bread he had provided for the Seigneur and all his servants and soldiers. So he was very glad, and went quickly to the palace and knocked at the door. When the Seigneur came out, he asked what was wanted of him. The Seigneur answered that he had heard of his boast that in less than twice twenty-four hours he could change all the lake into a beautiful meadow covered with grass and clover that would feed all the Seigneur's horses and would be a great advantage to the colony. Now, unless within twice twenty-four hours the lake was changed into a meadow, the baker should be hanged before the door of the palace.
Then the Seigneur turned away and the baker went out discouraged, for he did not know what to do. He walked off into the woods and sat down on a log to weep. After a long time an old woman came along and asked what was the matter. He said he was very miserable; he was going to be hanged in twice twenty-four hours; for the Seigneur had commanded him to change all the lake into a meadow, covered with grass and clover, and he was not able to do it. Now, this old woman was a good fairy in disguise and when the baker had done speaking she told him not to be troubled but to go to sleep. She gave him a wand just like a broken stick, which she told him to wave before he slept; it had great power, she said, and while he slept it would bring to pass whatever he desired. So he waved the wand and went to sleep. When he had slept an hour, he was awakened by the smell of hay, and when he looked about him, he saw that the lake was all gone and that there was only a small river that ran through the middle of a beautiful meadow down to the great river not far away. The good fairy was still by his side. She told him to go to the Seigneur and show him what he had done. He went to the palace, and when he came near, he saw the Seigneur looking out of the window at the meadow, and all the men and horses at work making hay. He knocked at the door, and when the Seigneur came downstairs, he asked him if he was satisfied. The Seigneur said he was not satisfied, because the river had been left running through the middle of the meadow. The baker told the Seigneur that the river had been left to provide water for the animals and to help in making hay, because there was so much hay that all the horses in the land could not draw it and it would have to be brought in boats. Then the Seigneur was satisfied and sent the baker away.
Soon the wicked lawyer came again, and the Seigneur showed him the meadow and the men and women and horses making hay. The lawyer was much surprised to see all this, but he did not say so. Instead, he told the Seigneur that he had no doubt the baker could do a great deal more than that; the baker, he said, had boasted that he could make a "tiens-bon-la" for the Seigneur that would be worth a great deal more than the meadow and would be a great advantage to the colony. "What is a 'tiens-bon-la'?" asked the Seigneur. "I do not know," answered the lawyer; "but the baker said he could make one." "I will send for him," said the Seigneur. So he sent for the baker, who was just making his bread. When he had put the bread into the oven, he went to the palace and knocked again, and the Seigneur came to the door. The Seigneur said: "I have heard that you boasted that you can make a 'tiens-bon-la' that would be worth more than the meadow and a great advantage to the colony. Now you shall go home and make it, and unless you bring it to me in twice twenty-four hours, you shall be hanged before the palace gate." The baker asked, "What is a 'tiens-bon-la'?" The Seigneur said, "I do not know, but I must have one within twice twenty-four hours." Then he went into his palace again.
The poor baker went away more sorrowful than before. He had no idea of what a "tiens-bon-la" was; but yet he knew he should be hanged unless he made one within twice twenty-four hours. He went out into the forest again and sat down on the same log as he had sat on before, and wept as hard as he could. When he had cried himself to sleep, the good old fairy came again and waked him up and asked him what was the matter. He told her that he should certainly be hanged this time, for he had been ordered to make a "tiens-bon-la" for the Seigneur, and he did not know what it was. Then the fairy said, "It is only the wicked lawyer who is in love with your wife and wants to get rid of you. You must do what I tell you and the lawyer will be punished, for we shall make a "tiens-bon-la" that will satisfy the Seigneur. Go to your home and tell your wife that you are commanded to make a 'tiens-bon-la' for the Seigneur and that you have nothing to make it of. Tell her to put two days' provisions in a bag for you, and when she has them all ready, go to your room and take the latch off the window. Then say good-bye to your wife, and walk about the country until it is dark. As soon as you are gone your wife will send for the lawyer and invite him to supper. Before he comes, and after it is dark, you must come back to your house and get in at the window and hide yourself under the bed. Now, the lawyer will not eat without first washing his hands. When he comes, your wife will send him into the room where you are hiding to wash, and when he takes hold of the wash-basin you must cry out, "tiens-bon-la." Take this wand that I will give you and anything you wave it at when you cry 'tiens-bon-la' will hold fast to whatever it is touching." Then she gave him another wand and went her way.
The baker did as the fairy had told him, and his wife was very glad to learn that he was going away; and she packed up a large bag of provisions and sent him off. As soon as he was out of the house she sent a note to the lawyer telling him that her husband was gone away for two days and that she would like to have him come to supper. The baker walked around the country until it was dark, and then came back and hid himself under the bed. His wife told the servant to set the table and prepare a nice supper, and then she went to get ready to receive the lawyer. Soon the lawyer arrived. The servant showed him into a room where he might wash his hands after his day's work before he sat down to his meal. The baker was under the bed in the room. There was some water that was not very clean in the wash-basin, and when the lawyer took hold of the basin to throw the water out, the baker, who was under the bed, waved his wand and cried out "tiens-bon-la," and the lawyer's hands stuck to the basin so that he could not let go and the basin stuck to the wash-stand. He called out to the servant to come and help him, but she was busy about the supper and did not hear him. So then he cried out as loud as he could, "Madame, Madame." When the baker's wife heard him, she was dreadfully frightened and ran in to see what was the matter. When she found the lawyer stuck to the wash-stand, which was very large and heavy, she took hold of him with both hands to pull him away. Then her husband cried out from under the bed "tiens-bon-la," and the wife could not let go the lawyer. Then the baker went out and called in some of his friends, and they ate the supper and drank the wine that had been prepared for the lawyer who was stuck to the wash-stand, and the wife who could not let go the lawyer.
When morning came, the baker took the wand that the fairy had given him and told his wife and the lawyer that if they wanted to get loose they must do as he told them. With his wand he loosened the basin from the wash-stand. Then he made them go out into the street, and he started them towards the Seigneur's palace.
As soon as they all came out into the light, the baker saw that there was a hole in his wife's dress, so he pulled some grass and twisted it into a wisp and filled up the hole. Presently they came to a cow that was feeding by the side of the road. There was not much grass there and the cow was hungry, so when she saw the wisp of grass sticking from the woman's dress she began to eat it; but the baker waved his wand and cried "tiens-bon-la" and the cow's teeth stuck in the grass and the grass stuck to the dress. They all went along until they came to a house where there was a large dog on the doorstep. When the dog saw the people, he jumped over the fence to see where they were going. The cow gave him a switch with her tail across the nose, the baker cried "tiens-bon-la," and the dog stuck to the cow's tail and went along with the rest. When the old woman who owned the dog saw him going off in this manner, she was very angry; she called him but he would not come; then she ran out with the broom that she was using to sweep the floor, and began to beat the dog to drive him home. But the baker cried out "tiens-bon-la" again and so the broom stuck to the dog and the old woman could not let go the broom. The old woman's husband was quite lame; he ran after his wife, limping along with a stick. He could not go very fast, but he went as well as he could to see what his old woman was beating the dog for. When he came up, he took hold of the woman's dress to pull her away, but the baker cried out "tiens-bon-la" again and the lame farmer had to go limping along with the others.
So they all went to the Seigneur's palacethe lawyer with the heavy wash-basin, the woman holding on to the lawyer, the cow trying to eat the wisp of hay, the dog barking at the cow and sticking to her tail, the old woman with her broom, and the lame farmer limping along with his stick. The baker knocked at the door and when the Seigneur opened it he said: "Oh, my Seigneur, you ordered a 'tiens-bon-la' and I have brought you one, the best that was ever made. If you will be pleased to try it, I hope you will be content." The Seigneur took hold of the basin to take it away from the lawyer, the baker cried "tiens-bon-la" again, and the Seigneur was held to the basin as fast as the others. He tried hard to get away, but the "tiens-bon-la" was good and would not let go.
Then the Seigneur asked the baker what he would take to let him off. After a long time the baker said he would let him go if the Seigneur would give a great sum of money every year to himself and to each of his fifteen children. The Seigneur consented, but the baker said he must have a deed made by a notary. So they sent for the notary and the deed was made, and the Seigneur signed it on the wash-basin. The baker waved his wand backwards, the "tiens-bon-la" was broken, and they all went away happy again, and the baker's wife never again deceived her husband.
Cyrus. Canadian Wonder Tales. London: John Lane, The Bodley Head,