There came a soldier marching down the high road – one, two! one, two! He had his knapsack on his back and his sword at his side as he came home from the wars. On the road he met a witch, an ugly old witch, a witch whose lower lip dangled right down on her chest.
“Good evening, soldier,” she said. “What a fine sword you’ve got there, and what a big knapsack. Aren’t you every inch a soldier! And now you shall have money, as much as you please.”
“That’s very kind, you old witch,” said the soldier.
“See that big tree.” The witch pointed to one near by them.”It’s hollow to the roots. Climb to the top of the trunk and you’ll find a hole through which you can let yourself down deep under the tree. I’ll tie a rope around your middle, so that when you call me I can pull you up again.”
“What would I do deep down under that tree?” the soldier wanted to know.
“Fetch money,” the witch said.”Listen. When you touch bottom you’ll find yourself in a great hall. It is very bright there, because more than a hundred lamps are burning. By their light you will see three doors. Each door has a key in it, so you can open them all.
“If you walk into the first room, you’ll see a large chest in the middle of the floor. On it sits a dog, and his eyes are as big as saucers. But don’t worry about that. I’ll give you my blue checked apron to spread out on the floor. Snatch up that dog and set him on my apron. Then you can open the chest and takeout as many pieces of money as you please. They are all copper.
“But if silver suits you better, then go into the next room. There sits a dog and his eyes areas big as mill wheels. But don’t you care about that. Set the dog on my apron while you line your pockets with silver.
“Maybe you’d rather have gold. You can, you know. You can have all the gold you can carry if you go into the third room. The only hitch is that there on the money-chest sits a dog, and each of his eyes is as big as the Round Tower of Copenhagen. That’s the sort of dog he is. But never you mind how fierce he looks. Just set him on my apron and he’ll do you no harm as you help yourself from the chest to all the gold you want.”
“That suits me,” said the soldier. “But what do you get out of all this, you old witch? I suppose that you want your share.”
“No indeed,” said the witch. “I don’t want a penny of it. All I ask is for you to fetch me an old tinder box that my grandmother forgot the last time she was down there.”
“Good,” said the soldier. “Tie the rope around me.”
“Here it is,” said the witch, “and here’s my blue checked apron.”
The soldier climbed up to the hole in the tree and let himself slide through it, feet foremost down into the great hall where the hundreds of lamps were burning, just as the witch had said. Now he threw open the first door he came to. Ugh! There sat a dog glaring at him with eyes as big as saucers.
“You’re a nice fellow,” the soldier said, as he shifted him to the witch’s apron and took all the coppers that his pockets would hold. He shut up the chest, set the dog back on it, and made for the second room. Alas and alack! There sat the dog with eyes as big as mill wheels.
“Don’t you look at me like that.”The soldier set him on the witch’s apron. “You’re apt to strain your eyesight.” When he saw the chest brimful of silver, he threw away all his coppers and filled both his pockets and knapsack with silver alone. Then he went into the third room. Oh, what a horrible sight to see! The dog in there really did have eyes as big as the Round Tower, and when he rolled them they spun like wheels.