LONG TIME AGO there lived in French Flanders, at a village called Saint Saulve, Valenciennes way, a little cow-boy named Johnny Nut He had no father and no mother, and they called him Johnny Nut because he was found one fine morning under a walnut-tree. Silly Billy was another name he had, for he was just as great an innocent as a calf before it is weaned.
Now, never in his living days had Johnny Nut dined on anything better than potatoes, and the one thing he wanted in the world was to taste roast goose.
Now, about a dozen miles off, Condé way, there is a village where the geese are so grand that all the world talks of nothing but the Hergnies geese.
'When I grow up,' said Johnny, 'I'll go to Hergnies and eat goose.'
So, at long and at last, one autumn evening he left the cows in the lurch, and off he went, without beat of drum.
Now, whether he came back as poor as he started, and what a great love of roast goose brought Silly Billy to, that's what we are going to tell you!
So Johnny Nut followed his nose, and asked his way, and at nightfall he reached the village of Escau-bridge.
'You can't show me the way to Hergnies, mother?' cried Johnny to the farmer's wife, who was just sitting down to supper.
'That I can, my son, but you are out late.
'Are you in such a hurry?'
'Oh, mother, who is in a hurry if not me? These ten years I've been dying to taste roast goose, so don't you see there's no time to waste.'
The farmer's wife stared at him with all her eyes.
'What do they call you?' says she.
'Silly Billy,'says he.
'Oh, don't I see. Yes, I see,'said the woman, laughing to his very face. 'Listen, my lad! You are big, and strong, and you seem honest. Now Jim, our man, is off on the King's wars. Will you take his place?'
'Will you let me taste roast goose?'
'On Sunday, as sure as sure, you shall have your fill of goose; I have to send some one to Hergnies, to my cousin's, to-morrow. You shall start, at peep of day, and bring me a good fat goose. We'll dine off him when we come back from the fair at the next town. Does that suit you, my son?'
'Mother, it's just the thing for me.'
'Then come to supper.'
And to supper went Johnny Nut, with such an appetite that he scarcely had time to say grace.
To be continue in this ebook