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The shepherd who never lied, by Alfred de Musset

posted in: Short stories | 0

Once upon a time there was a man with a large herd. A shepherd who had the reputation of always telling the truth took care of it.

One day when the shepherd had come down from the mountain, his master asked him:

– How are the cows?

– Some are fat, others are flabby.

– And the proud bull?

– Plumb and beautiful.

– And the pasture?

– Good in places and dry to others.

– And the water of the rivulets?

– Trouble here and clear elsewhere.

One day the farmer went to the pasture. On the way he met one of his friends who was also going to see his herd.

– Why do you call your shepherd, “the man who never lies”?

– Because he never said a single lie.

– I’ll tell him one.

– It’s impossible.

– What are we betting on?

– Half of each of our farms.

– Bet agreed.

The friend of the farmer employed every possible means to make the shepherd lie. One day he went to hunt in a place that could be observed from the pasture guarded by the shepherd who never lied. When the night came, his master asked him before his friend:

– Has anyone gone to hunt in the mountains today?

– I will tell you my master; over there, far away on the prairie, I saw a man or a woman mounted on a horse or a mare; he had a carbine or a rifle and his dog or bitch ran after a fox or a vixen.

There were approaching the day when the betting ended. One morning, the daughter of the betting friend, a pretty young lady of twenty years old, mounted a horse, and, without saying anything to her father, went to the pasture where the shepherd was.

When night fell, the girl returned and gave her father the heart of the proud bull, wrapped in fern leaves.

The friend came to tell the farmer that his shepherd had killed the proud bull.

The next day the shepherd came down from the mountain, put his stick in the ground, put on his cape and his hat, and said to him:

– Stick, you are my master; ask me questions.

– How are the cows?

– Some are fat, others are flabby.

– And the proud bull?

– He charged me and I had to silence him.

He seized his stick, planted it further, and repeated his questions.

He arrived at his master’s house, hung his bag on a nail and sat down. He was called to pass in the hall where the farmer, his friend, and a few men were assembled. In their presence, the master asks:

– How are the cows?

– Some are fat, others are flabby.

– And the proud bull?

The shepherd dropped his head on his chest without replying.

– And the proud bull? asked the farmer again.

The shepherd raised his head; he stared at the assistants one by one and said:

– For the beautiful eyes of a brown girl, and a harmonious body, the proud bull lost his heart.

His master jumped up and cried out:

– Bravo! Long live my boy! The cow that gave birth to this bull will make it a new one.

He took him in his arms. And his master’s friend gave him his daughter in marriage.

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