ONCE very long ago in the days when Canada was owned by the French there lived on the banks of a great river a wicked lawyer who was in love with a baker’s wife.
He tried in various ways to get rid of the baker, but without success. They lived not far from the Seigneur who owned all the land around and was very powerful.
Now, in front of the Seigneur’s palace there was a great lake of more than twelve thousand acres. One morning the lawyer went to the palace and knocked at the door.
When the Seigneur came out, he said to him, “Sire, there is a man not far from here who boasts that in less than twice twenty-four hours he can change this lake into a beautiful meadow covered with grass that would give hay enough for all your horses and would be to the great advantage of the colony.”
Then the Seigneur said, “Who is this man?” The lawyer answered, “He is no less than the baker who furnishes your household with bread.”
So the Seigneur said, “I will send for him.”
The lawyer went away, and the Seigneur sent a letter to the baker saying that he wanted to see him. The poor baker thought he was to get his pay for the bread he had provided for the Seigneur and all his servants and soldiers. So he was very glad, and went quickly to the palace and knocked at the door. When the Seigneur came out, he asked what was wanted of him.
The Seigneur answered that he had heard of his boast that in less than twice twenty-four hours he could change all the lake into a beautiful meadow covered with grass and clover that would feed all the Seigneur’s horses and would be a great advantage to the colony. Now, unless within twice twenty-four hours the lake was changed into a meadow, the baker should be hanged before the door of the palace.
Then the Seigneur turned away and the baker went out discouraged, for he did not know what to do. He walked off into the woods and sat down on a log to weep. After a long time an old woman came along and asked what was the matter.
He said he was very miserable; he was going to be hanged in twice twenty-four hours; for the Seigneur had commanded him to change all the lake into a meadow, covered with grass and clover, and he was not able to do it. Now, this old woman was a good fairy in disguise and when the baker had done speaking she told him not to be troubled but to go to sleep.
She gave him a wand just like a broken stick, which she told him to wave before he slept; it had great power, she said, and while he slept it would bring to pass whatever he desired.
So he waved the wand and went to sleep. When he had slept an hour, he was awakened by the smell of hay, and when he looked about him, he saw that the lake was all gone and that there was only a small river that ran through the middle of a beautiful meadow down to the great river not far away.
The good fairy was still by his side. She told him to go to the Seigneur and show him what he had done. He went to the palace, and when he came near, he saw the Seigneur looking out of the window at the meadow, and all the men and horses at work making hay.
He knocked at the door, and when the Seigneur came downstairs, he asked him if he was satisfied. The Seigneur said he was not satisfied, because the river had been left running through the middle of the meadow.
The baker told the Seigneur that the river had been left to provide water for the animals and to help in making hay, because there was so much hay that all the horses in the land could not draw it and it would have to be brought in boats. Then the Seigneur was satisfied and sent the baker away.