The owl



Two or three hundred years ago, when people were far from being so crafty and cunning as they are now-a-day, an extraordinary event took place in a little town. By some mischance one of the great owls, called horned owls, had come from the neighboring woods into the barn of one of the townsfolk in the night-time, and when day broke did not dare to venture forth again from her retreat, for fear of the other birds, which raised a terrible outcry whenever she appeared. In the morning when the man-servant went into the barn to fetch some straw, he was so mightily alarmed at the sight of the owl sitting there in a corner, that he ran away and announced to his master that a monster, the like of which he had never set eyes on in his life, and which could devour a man without the slightest difficulty, was sitting in the barn, rolling its eyes about in its head. "I know you already," said the master, "you have courage enough to chase a blackbird about the fields, but when you see a dead hen lying, you have to get a stick before you go near it. I must go and see for myself what kind of a monster it is," added the master, and went quite boldly into the granary and looked round him. When, however, he saw the strange grim creature with his own eyes, he was no less terrified than the servant had been. With two bounds he sprang out, ran to his neighbours, and begged them imploringly to lend him assistance against an unknown and dangerous beast, or else the whole town might be in danger if it were to break loose out of the barn, where it was shut up. A great noise and clamour arose in all the streets, the townsmen came armed with spears, hay-forks, scythes, and axes, as if they were going out against an enemy; finally, the senators appeared with the burgomaster at their head. When they had drawn up in the market- place, they marched to the barn, and surrounded it on all sides. Thereupon one of the most courageous of them stepped forth and entered with his spear lowered, but came running out immediately afterwards with a shriek and as pale as death, and could not utter a single word. Yet two others ventured in, but they fared no better. At last one stepped forth; a great strong man who was famous for his warlike deeds, and said, "You will not drive away the monster by merely looking at him; we must be in earnest here, but I see that you have all tuned into women, and not one of you dares to encounter the animal." He ordered them to give him some armour, had a sword and spear brought, and armed himself. All praised his courage, though many feared for his life. The two barn-doors were opened, and they saw the owl, which in the meantime had perched herself on the middle of a great cross-beam. He had a ladder brought, and when he raised it, and made ready to climb up, they all cried out to him that he was to bear himself bravely, and commended him to St. George, who slew the dragon. When he had just got to the top, and the owl perceived that he had designs on her, and was also bewildered by the crowd and the shouting, and knew not how to escape, she rolled her eyes, ruffled her feathers, flapped her wings, snapped her beak, and cried, "Tuwhit, tuwhoo," in a harsh voice. "Strike home! strike home!" screamed the crowd outside to the valiant hero. "Any one who was standing where I am standing," answered he, "would not cry, strike home!" He certainly did plant his foot one rung higher on the ladder, but then he began to tremble, and half-fainting, went back again.
两三百年前,人们还远没有今天这般聪明狡猾时,在一个小镇里发生了一件希奇的事。 有一只猫头鹰,人们叫它"叔胡"的,黑夜中不幸误入了林间的一户人家的谷仓里。 天亮时,因为害怕别的鸟儿瞧见,会发出可怕的叫声,它不敢冒险出来。 早上,家中的一个仆人到谷仓来取干草,看见了坐在墙角的猫头鹰,他大吃一惊,撒腿就跑,并报告主人说他看见了一个平生从未见过的怪物正坐在谷仓里,眼睛溜溜直转,毫不费力就能吞下一个活人。 "我可知道你这种人,"主人说,"你敢满地里追赶一只山鸟,却不敢靠近一只躺在地上的死鸡。我倒要亲自去看看它是何方怪物。"主人说着,大胆地走进了谷仓,四下寻望。 当他一眼瞧见了这古怪可怕的动物时,吓得决不亚于那仆人,"嗖"地一下就跳出了谷仓,跑到邻居家,求他们帮忙对付这不认识的危险野兽,说一旦它冲出来,全城人都会有危险。 大街小巷一下沸腾起来了,只见人们拿着镰刀、斧头、草叉和矛,如大敌将至一般。 最后,连以市长为首的议会都出动了。 在广场上整队集合后,他们便浩浩荡荡地向谷仓进发,把它围得水泄不通。 这时其中最勇敢的一人走上前,漫不经心地拿着矛进去了。 接着只听一声尖叫,他没命地跑了出来,变得面无血色,语无伦次。 另两个人又冒险进去了,但也好不到哪里去。 最后有一个人站了出来,他可是一位骁勇善战的壮汉。 "只看看它是赶不走怪物的,我们必须坚决果断,但我看你们都成了娘儿们,没有一个敢面对这畜生。"他命人拿过盔甲、剑和矛,全身披挂。 人人都称赞他勇敢,不过很多人也为他的生命担心。 谷仓的两扇大门大开了,他看见了正蹲在一根大梁中部的那只猫头鹰。 勇士命人拿来梯子,当他立起梯子准备爬上去时,人们都对他大叫,要他更勇敢些,并把那个曾杀死蛟龙的圣乔治介绍给他。 他到达了顶部,猫头鹰看出他要去打它,加之这人群和喧叫,又不知如何逃生,不由眼珠乱转,羽毛竖立,双翅乱拍,张开嘴巴,粗着嗓子大叫起来:"嘟咿!嘟呜!""戳呀!戳呀!"外面的人群冲着这勇士高声喊叫。 "任何一个处在我这位置的人都不会叫'戳呀'。的"他答道。 他虽然又往上爬高了一级,可双腿不由自主地发起抖来,几乎吓得要晕过去了,最后终于败下阵来。

And now there was no one left who dared to put himself in such danger. "The monster," said they, "has poisoned and mortally wounded the very strongest man among us, by snapping at him and just breathing on him! Are we, too, to risk our lives?" They took counsel as to what they ought to do to prevent the whole town being destroyed. For a long time everything seemed to be of no use, but at length the burgomaster found an expedient. "My opinion," said he, "is that we ought, out of the common purse, to pay for this barn, and whatsoever corn, straw, or hay it contains, and thus indemnify the owner, and then burn down the whole building, and the terrible beast with it. Thus no one will have to endanger his life. This is no time for thinking of expense, and niggardliness would be ill applied." All agreed with him. So they set fire to the barn at all four corners, and with it the owl was miserably burnt. Let any one who will not believe it, go thither and inquire for himself.
这下再也没有人敢去冒这个险了。 人们说:"那个怪物只要一张口发声和呼气,连我们最勇敢的人都中了毒,几乎要掉了他们的命,难到我们其余的人还要拿自己的生命去冒险吗?"为了保住城市使它不至于毁灭,他们开始商量该怎么办。 商量来商量去,始终想不出个万全之策,最后市长找到了一个权宜之策。 他说:"我的看法是,我们应当掏腰包,赔偿仓库及其中的一切给主人,然后放火烧掉整个仓库,连同这可怕的野兽一起烧死,这样大家再也不会有生命危险了。现在已没有过多的时间考虑了,我们也决不能吝啬。"大家一致同意了这个办法,于是,他们在四角点上火,那只猫头鹰连同谷仓一起在火中化成了灰烬。 要是有人不相信,就请他自己去问问吧!

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