The Tale of Ivan
There were formerly a man and a woman
living in the parish of
Llanlavan, in the place which is called Hwrdh. And work
scarce, so the man said to his wife, "I will go search
for work, and
you may live here." So he took fair leave, and travelled
the East, and at last came to the house of a farmer and
"What work can ye do?" said the farmer. "I
can do all kinds of
work," said Ivan. Then they agreed upon three pounds
for the year's
When the end of the year came his master showed him the
pounds. "See, Ivan," said he, "here's your
wage; but if you will
give it me back I'll give you a piece of advice instead."
"Give me my wage," said
"No, I'll not," said the master; "I'll
explain my advice."
"Tell it me, then," said
Then said the master, "Never
leave the old road for the sake of a
After that they agreed for another year at the old wages,
and at the
end of it Ivan took instead a piece of advice, and this
"Never lodge where an old man is married to a young
The same thing happened at the end of the third year,
when the piece
of advice was: "Honesty is the best policy."
But Ivan would not stay longer, but wanted to go back
to his wife.
"Don't go to-day," said his master; "my
wife bakes to-morrow, and
she shall make thee a cake to take home to thy good woman."
And when Ivan was going to leave, "Here," said
his master, "here is
a cake for thee to take home to thy wife, and, when ye
joyous together, then break the cake, and not sooner."
So he took fair leave of them and travelled towards home,
last he came to Wayn Her, and there he met three merchants
Rhyn, of his own parish, coming home from Exeter Fair. "Oho!
said they, "come with us; glad are we to see you.
Where have you
been so long?"
"I have been in service," said Ivan, "and
now I'm going home to my
"Oh, come with us! you'll be right welcome." But
when they took the
new road Ivan kept to the old one. And robbers fell upon
they had gone far from Ivan as they were going by the fields
houses in the meadow. They began to cry out, "Thieves!" and
shouted out "Thieves!" too. And when the robbers
heard Ivan's shout
they ran away, and the merchants went by the new road and
the old one till they met again at Market-Jew.
"Oh, Ivan," said the merchants, "we
are beholding to you; but for
you we would have been lost men. Come lodge with us at
our cost, and
When they came to the place where
they used to lodge, Ivan said, "I
must see the host."
"The host," they cried; "what
do you want with the host? Here is the
hostess, and she's young and pretty. If you want to see
you'll find him in the kitchen."
So he went into the kitchen to see the host; he found
him a weak old
man turning the spit.
"Oh! oh!" quoth Ivan, "I'll
not lodge here, but will go next door."
"Not yet," said the merchants, "sup
with us, and welcome."
Now it happened that the hostess had plotted with a certain
Market-Jew to murder the old man in his bed that night
rest were asleep, and they agreed to lay it on the lodgers.
So while Ivan was in bed next door, there was a hole in
of the house, and he saw a light through it. So he got
looked, and heard the monk speaking. "I had better
cover this hole,"
said he, "or people in the next house may see our
deeds." So he
stood with his back against it while the hostess killed
the old man.
But meanwhile Ivan out with his knife, and putting it
hole, cut a round piece off the monk's robe. The very next
the hostess raised the cry that her husband was murdered,
there was neither man nor child in the house but the merchants,
declared they ought to be hanged for it.
So they were taken and carried to prison, till a last
Ivan came to
them. "Alas! alas! Ivan," cried they, "bad
luck sticks to us; our
host was killed last night, and we shall be hanged for
"Ah, tell the justices," said Ivan, "to
summon the real murderers."
"Who knows," they replied, "who
committed the crime?"
"Who committed the crime!" said Ivan. "if
I cannot prove who
committed the crime, hang me in your stead."
So he told all he knew, and brought out the piece of cloth
monk's robe, and with that the merchants were set at liberty,
the hostess and the monk were seized and hanged.
Then they came all together out of Market-Jew, and they
said to him:
"Come as far as Coed Carrn y Wylfa, the Wood of the
Heap of Stones
of Watching, in the parish of Burman." Then their
separated, and though the merchants wished Ivan to go with
would not go with them, but went straight home to his wife.
And when his wife saw him she
said: "Home in the
nick of time.
Here's a purse of gold that I've found; it has no name,
but sure it
belongs to the great lord yonder. I was just thinking what
when you came."
Then Ivan thought of the third
counsel, and he said "Let
us go and
give it to the great lord."
So they went up to the castle, but the great lord was
not in it, so
they left the purse with the servant that minded the gate,
they went home again and lived in quiet for a time.
But one day the great lord stopped at their house for
a drink of
water, and Ivan's wife said to him: "I hope your lordship
lordship's purse quite safe with all its money in it."
"What purse is that you are talking about?" said
"Sure, it's your lordship's purse that I left at
the castle," said
"Come with me and we will see into the matter," said
So Ivan and his wife went up to the castle, and there
out the man to whom they had given the purse, and he had
to give it
up and was sent away from the castle. And the lord was
with Ivan that he made him his servant in the stead of
"Honesty's the best policy!" quoth
Ivan, as he skipped about in his
new quarters. "How joyful I am!"
Then he thought of his old master's cake that he was to
eat when he
was most joyful, and when he broke it, to and behold, inside
his wages for the three years he had been with him.