"He was such a handsome baby when he was born," said Inga, his mother; "but you would scarcely believe it now, running about as he does in forest and field, tearing his clothes and scratching his face."
Now, it was true, as Hans's mother said, that he did often tear his clothes; and as he had an indomitable curiosity, and had to investigate everything that came in his way, it was also no uncommon thing for him to come home with his face stung or scratched.
"Why must you drag that child with you wherever you go, Nils?" the mother complained to Hans's father, when the little boy was brought to her in such a disreputable condition. "Why can't you leave him at home? What other man do you know who carries a six-year-old little fellow about with him in rain and shine, storm and quiet?
"Well," Nils invariably answered, "I like him and he likes me. He brings me luck."
This was a standing dispute between Nils and Inga, his wife, and they never came to an agreement. She knew as well as her husband that before little Hans was born there was want and misery in their cottage. But from the hour the child lifted up its tiny voice, announcing its arrival, there had been prosperity and contentment. Their luck had turned, Nils said, and it was the child that had turned it. They had been married for four years, and though they had no one to provide for but themselves, they scarcely managed to keep body and soul together. All sorts of untoward things happened. Now a tree which he was cutting down fell upon Nils and laid him up for a month; now he got water on his knee from a blow he received while rolling logs into the chute; now the pig died which was to have provided them with salt pork for the winter, and the hens took to the bush, and laid their eggs where nobody except the rats and the weasels could find them. But since little Hans had come and put an end to all these disasters, his father had a superstitious feeling that he could not bear to have him away from him. Therefore every morning when he started out for the forest or the river he carried Hans on his shoulder. And the little boy sat there, smiling proudly and waving his hand to his mother, who stood in the door looking longingly after him.
"Hello, little chap!" cried the lumbermen, when they saw him. "Good-morning to you and good luck!"
They always cheered up, however bad the weather was, when they saw little Hans, for nobody could look at his sunny little face without feeling something like a ray of sunlight stealing into his heart. Hans had a smile and a wave of his hand for everybody. He knew all the lumbermen by name, and they knew him.
They sang as they swung the axe or the boat-hook, and the work went merrily when little Hans sat on the top of the log pile and shouted to them. But if by chance he was absent for a day or two they missed him. No songs were heard, but harsh words, and not infrequently quarrels. Now, nobody believed, of course, that little Hans was such a wizard that he could make people feel and behave any better than it was in their nature to do; but sure it was--at least the lumbermen insisted that it was so--there was joy and good-tempered mirth wherever that child went, and life seemed a little sadder and poorer to those who knew him when he was away.