One day a peasant took his good hazel-stick out of the corner and said to his wife, "Trina, I am going across country, and shall not return for three days. If during that time the cattle-dealer should happen to call and want to buy our three cows, you may strike a bargain at once, but not unless you can get two hundred thalers for them; nothing less, do you hear?" - "For heaven's sake just go in peace," answered the woman, "I will manage that." - "You, indeed," said the man. "You once fell on your head when you were a little child, and that affects you even now; but let me tell you this, if you do anything foolish, I will make your back black and blue, and not with paint, I assure you, but with the stick which I have in my hand, and the colouring shall last a whole year, you may rely on that." And having said that, the man went on his way.
Next morning the cattle-dealer came, and the woman had no need to say many words to him. When he had seen the cows and heard the price, he said, "I am quite willing to give that, honestly speaking, they are worth it. I will take the beasts away with me at once." He unfastened their chains and drove them out of the byre, but just as he was going out of the yard-door, the woman clutched him by the sleeve and said, "You must give me the two hundred thalers now, or I cannot let the cows go." - "True," answered the man, "but I have forgotten to buckle on my money-belt. Have no fear, however, you shall have security for my paying. I will take two cows with me and leave one, and then you will have a good pledge." The woman saw the force of this, and let the man go away with the cows, and thought to herself, "How pleased Hans will be when he finds how cleverly I have managed it!" The peasant came home on the third day as he had said he would, and at once inquired if the cows were sold? "Yes, indeed, dear Hans," answered the woman, "and as you said, for two hundred thalers. They are scarcely worth so much, but the man took them without making any objection." - "Where is the money?" asked the peasant. "Oh, I have not got the money," replied the woman; "he had happened to forget his money-belt, but he will soon bring it, and he left good security behind him." - "What kind of security?" asked the man. "One of the three cows, which he shall not have until he has paid for the other two. I have managed very cunningly, for I have kept the smallest, which eats the least." The man was enraged and lifted up his stick, and was just going to give her the beating he had promised her. Suddenly he let the stick fail and said, "You are the stupidest goose that ever waddled on God's earth, but I am sorry for you. I will go out into the highways and wait for three days to see if I find anyone who is still stupider than you. If I succeed in doing so, you shall go scot-free, but if I do not find him, you shall receive your well-deserved reward without any discount."
He went out into the great highways, sat down on a stone, and waited for what would happen. Then he saw a peasant's waggon coming towards him, and a woman was standing upright in the middle of it, instead of sitting on the bundle of straw which was lying beside her, or walking near the oxen and leading them. The man thought to himself, "That is certainly one of the kind I am in search of," and jumped up and ran backwards and forwards in front of the waggon like one who is not very wise. "What do you want, my friend?" said the woman to him; "I don't know you, where do you come from?" - "I have fallen down from heaven," replied the man, "and don't know how to get back again, couldn't you drive me up?" - "No," said the woman, "I don't know the way, but if you come from heaven you can surely tell me how my husband, who has been there these three years is. You must have seen him?" - "Oh, yes, I have seen him, but all men can't get on well. He keeps sheep, and the sheep give him a great deal to do. They run up the mountains and lose their way in the wilderness, and he has to run after them and drive them together again. His clothes are all torn to pieces too, and will soon fall off his body. There is no tailor there, for Saint Peter won't let any of them in, as you know by the story." - "Who would have thought it?" cried the woman, "I tell you what, I will fetch his Sunday coat which is still hanging at home in the cupboard, he can wear that and look respectable. You will be so kind as to take it with you." - "That won't do very well," answered the peasant; "people are not allowed to take clothes into Heaven, they are taken away from one at the gate." - "Then hark you," said the woman, "I sold my fine wheat yesterday and got a good lot of money for it, I will send that to him. If you hide the purse in your pocket, no one will know that you have it." - "If you can't manage it any other way," said the peasant, "I will do you that favor." - "Just sit still where you are," said she, "and I will drive home and fetch the purse, I shall soon be back again. I do not sit down on the bundle of straw, but stand up in the waggon, because it makes it lighter for the cattle." She drove her oxen away, and the peasant thought, "That woman has a perfect talent for folly, if she really brings the money, my wife may think herself fortunate, for she will get no beating." It was not long before she came in a great hurry with the money, and with her own hands put it in his pocket. Before she went away, she thanked him again a thousand times for his courtesy.
When the woman got home again, she found her son who had come in from the field. She told him what unlooked-for things had befallen her, and then added, "I am truly delighted at having found an opportunity of sending something to my poor husband. Who would ever have imagined that he could be suffering for want of anything up in heaven?" The son was full of astonishment. "Mother," said he, "it is not every day that a man comes from Heaven in this way, I will go out immediately, and see if he is still to be found; he must tell me what it is like up there, and how the work is done." He saddled the horse and rode off with all speed. He found the peasant who was sitting under a willow-tree, and was just going to count the money in the purse. "Have you seen the man who has fallen down from Heaven?" cried the youth to him. "Yes," answered the peasant, "he has set out on his way back there, and has gone up that hill, from whence it will be rather nearer; you could still catch him up, if you were to ride fast." - "Alas," said the youth, "I have been doing tiring work all day, and the ride here has completely worn me out; you know the man, be so kind as to get on my horse, and go and persuade him to come here." - "Aha!" thought the peasant, "here is another who has no wick in his lamp!" - "Why should I not do you this favor?" said he, and mounted the horse and rode off in a quick trot. The youth remained sitting there till night fell, but the peasant never came back. "The man from Heaven must certainly have been in a great hurry, and would not turn back," thought he, "and the peasant has no doubt given him the horse to take to my father." He went home and told his mother what had happened, and that he had sent his father the horse so that he might not have to be always running about. "Thou hast done well," answered she, "thy legs are younger than his, and thou canst go on foot."
When the peasant got home, he put the horse in the stable beside the cow which he had as a pledge, and then went to his wife and said, "Trina, as your luck would have it, I have found two who are still sillier fools than you; this time you escape without a beating, I will store it up for another occasion." Then he lighted his pipe, sat down in his grandfather's chair, and said, "It was a good stroke of business to get a sleek horse and a great purse full of money into the bargain, for two lean cows. If stupidity always brought in as much as that, I would be quite willing to hold it in honor." So thought the peasant, but you no doubt prefer the simple folks.
第二天早晨，牛贩子来了，农妇对他没有过多的寒喧。 他看了牛并了解了价钱后表示："我同意接受这个价钱。老实讲，它们得要这个价，我这就把牛牵走。"他把缰绳解开，赶着牛出了牛圈，可是就在他还没出院门的当儿，农妇一把抓住了他的衣袖，说道："你必须现在付给我二百银元，否则我不能让牛走。""那当然，"男人答，"可是不巧的是我忘了系上我那装钱的腰带。不过没关系，我会向你提供我付款的担保抵押。我牵二头牛走，留下一头，这样你就有了很好的抵押品啦。"农妇以为这里油水不小，就让牛贩子牵走了牛，她自己暗想："如果汉斯知道我将此事处理得如此之好，他得多高兴呀！"第三天，农夫按期回到家，进门就问牛卖了没有。 "是的，当然啦，亲爱的汉斯，"农夫答，"照你说的，卖了二百银元。它们不值这么高的价钱，那个男的没表示异议就把牛牵走了。""钱在哪儿？"农夫问。 "噢，我还没拿到钱，"农妇答，"他碰巧忘了带装钱的腰带，可他很快就会把钱带来的，而且他还留下了一大笔抵押。""什么抵押品？"农夫又问。 "三头牛中的一头，他得把其它那二头牛的钱付了，才能牵走这头牛。我耍了个花招，我留下了那头最小的，它吃得最少。"农夫气坏啦，他举起拐棍，正准备像曾警告她的那样揍她一顿，忽然又放下拐棍说道："你是上帝创造的地球上最傻最傻的人啦，我为你感到难过。我要去马路上等上三天三夜，看能不能找到比你更傻的人。如果有这样的人，那你就不必受罚啦，可是如果我没找到，你就得不打折扣地接受你该接受的奖赏。"
他出门到了大马路上，坐在一块石头上等待着。 不一会儿他看见一辆农民的牛车朝他过来，一个农妇直直地站在车中间，而不是坐在身边的草垛上或牵着牛走。 农夫想到："这肯定就是我要找的人啦。"他跳起身来，在牛车前面跑前跑后，活像一个脑子不正常的人。 "你想干什么，我的朋友？"农妇问他，"我不认识你，你打哪儿来？""我从天上掉了下来，"农夫回答，"我没法子回去啦，你能用车送我回去吗？""不行，"农妇说，"我不认识路，如果你真是从天上来，你一定能告诉我我的丈夫如何，他上那儿去已有三年啦。你肯定见过他吗？""噢，可不是吗，我见过他，不过那儿的人都混得不怎么样。他在放羊，放羊这活儿挺累挺忙。它们在山上乱跑，满山遍野经常迷路，他得跟在羊群后面，防止它们跑散了。他的衣服全都撕破了，马上就穿不住啦。那儿没有裁缝，圣彼得不让他们进来，你听过这故事。""谁能想到这个呢？"农妇禁不住哭了起来，"我跟你说，我要给他拿礼拜天的礼服，这衣服仍在家里的柜子里挂着呐。他可以穿上，那样看起来会庄重些。劳您驾，把衣服给他带去。""那可不太好办，"农夫正经地答，"人们不让把衣服带进天堂，到门口就被没收啦。""那么你听好，"农妇说，"昨天我把麦子卖了个好价钱，我想把钱给他。如果你把钱包藏在你的口袋里，没人知道你带着钱呢。""如果你没有其它的法子，"农夫答应，"我也只好帮你这个忙啦。""你坐在这儿别动，"她说，"我回家拿钱包，马上回来。我不坐在草垛上，我站在车上，这样会轻些，牛可以省点儿劲。"她赶着牛车走了，农夫想："这个女人是个十足的蠢货，如果她真把钱带来，我老婆可就万幸啦，她可以免去一顿揍。"不长时间，她拿着钱急急忙忙地回来了，她亲手把钱放到了他的口袋里。 对他的仗义相助，她是千感万谢，直到二人分手。
当农妇回到了家，碰见她的儿子从地里回来。 她告诉他她所遇到的意外之事，然后说："我真高兴有机会送点东西给我可怜的丈夫。谁会想到在天堂他还会缺衣少穿呢？"儿子满心惊诧。 "母亲，"他说，"不是每天都有人这样从天上下来的 ，我马上去看看他是不是还在那儿。 他必须告诉我天上是个什么样子，那儿的活儿是怎么干的。 "他给马套上鞍子，骑上马全速奔去。他看见农夫坐在一棵柳树下正要点包里的钱。"您看见那个从天堂上掉下来的人吗？ "年轻人朝他大声叫道。""是呀，"农夫回答，"他已经上路回去啦，他去那座山上，那儿要近一些；如果你快些骑，还能追上他。""哎呀，"年轻人说，"干了一整天的活，够累的了，刚才骑马到这儿，我是一点劲都没有啦。既然您认识那人，劳驾您骑我的马把他追回来。""啊哈！"农夫暗喜："这儿又来了一个没脑子的人！""这忙我怎能不帮呢？"说完他骑上马，一溜烟地跑了。 年轻人一直等到天黑，农夫还没回来。 "天堂来的人肯定很着急，不会回来啦。"他想，"毫无疑问那农夫让他把马也给我父亲带去啦。"他回了家，告诉母亲事情的经过，而且说把马也给父亲带去了，免得他经常跑来跑去的。 "你作得很好，"她夸奖道，"你的腿比他的年轻，你可以走路。"