|Once upon a time, there
was a little boy called Dennis. Everyone called him
Dopey because . . . well, read on and you will see why. Dennis lived with his
mother in a nice house with a courtyard, vegetable plot, cellar and a henrun.
One day his mother, since she had to go shopping, said to him,
"I'll be away for an hour or two, son. Now, the broody hen is sitting on
her eggs. Make sure nobody goes near her. Keep the house tidy and don't touch
the jar in the cupboard, it's full of poison."
"Don't worry, Mum," the little boy said, and when his mother had gone, he
went into the yard to keep guard over the broody hen. However, tired of
sitting, the hen got up to stretch her legs for a little before going back to
the eggs. Dennis picked up a stick and yelled:
"You nasty creature, get right back on those eggs!"
But the broody hen, annoyed, only said, "Cluck!", and so Dennis hit her
with his stick. He didn't really mean to do her any harm, but the blow fell on
the middle of her neck and the poor hen dropped dead.
"Oh!" gasped the lad. "Who's going to sit on the eggs now? Well, I had
better do something about that!" So he sat on the eggs . . . and broke the
lot! Getting up with the seat of his trousers sticky with egg yolk, Dennis
said to himself, "Mum will give me such a scolding. But to keep in her good
books, I'll give her a surprise, I'll make the lunch." He picked up the hen,
plucked its feathers and put it on the spit to roast.
"A roast calls for a good wine!" he said to himself. He took a jug and went
down to the cellar where he started to draw sparkling red wine from a barrel.
"Mum will be pleased with me," he told himself. At that moment, there was a
dreadful noise in the kitchen. Dennis said to himself, "Who can that be? I
must go and see." And he went . . . forgetting to turn off the tap on the
Up he ran to the kitchen and saw the cat with the roast hen in its jaws and
the spit overturned. "Hey thief!" shouted the lad. "Put my hen down!" He
picked up a rolling pin and started to chase the cat which, terrified as it
was, firmly held on to the roast chicken as it dashed from room to room. The
pair of them knocked against the cupboards, overturned tables, sideboards and
stools, smashed vases, pots, plates and glasses. The devastation ended when
the cat dropped the hen, leapt out of a window and vanished from sight. Dennis
picked up his roast, laid it on the table and said:
"Now, I'll go and fetch the wine." He went back to the cellar . . . which
was flooded with the wine that had poured out of the barrel. "Good gracious!"
gasped Dennis. "What am I to do now?" He didn't dare go in, for before him
stretched a lake of red wine.
"I'll have to mop it all up," muttered Dennis to himself, "but how? I could
go into the yard and get some sacks of sand, bring them into the cellar and
scatter the sand over the floor . . . But that's much too hard work. I'd
better think of something else, now then . . ." Seated on the bottom step, his
elbows on his knees, holding his head in his hands, the lad tried to think of
a good idea. It really was an alarming situation: there were nearly six inches
of wine all over the floor and in it floated corks, bottles and bits of
wood . . .
"I've got it!" Dennis suddenly exclaimed. He picked up one of the bags
lying on a table, opened it . . . and started to scatter all the flour it
contained. "Splendid! The flour will absorb the wine and I can walk about the
cellar without wetting my feet," he cried.
In no time at all, he had spread not one but five bags of good flour on the
floor. In the end, the floor was covered with a wine-colored, soft, sticky
paste, and as he walked on it, it stuck to his shoes. Dennis went to get the
jug he had filled and carried it in great delight back to the table, leaving
red footprints everywhere.
"Mum is going to be really pleased," he said.
Nevertheless, when he thought of all the mess he had made, he began to fear
a scolding and maybe punishment too. "Never mind," he said, "I'll drink the
poison and die." So he went to the cupboard and picked up the jar. He thought
the poison would be a black liquid, but the jar contained a red cream. He
picked up a spoon and said, "I'll eat it then instead of drinking it."
Just as he was about to take his first spoonful, he realized how silly he
was. Nobody should ever eat poison, not even when your name is Dopey Dennis.
Instead, he decided to hide from his mother so that she would not be able to
A quarter of an hour later, his mother returned. When she saw the
overturned furniture, the broken plates and the red footprints, she got a
fright and cried, "Dennis! What has happened? Where are you? Answer me!"
There was no reply, but she suddenly noticed a pair of legs sticking out of
"I'm not surprised you are hiding from me, Dennis, after causing all this
mess," she said. "Well, while I am clearing up after you, you can take this
roll of cloth to the market and try and sell it for a good price." And she
handed the boy a roll of cloth as she spoke. "Oh, I will," said Dennis. "Leave
it to me."
When he got to market, Dennis began to shout, "Cloth! Who'll buy this
lovely cloth?" Several women came over and asked him,
"What kind of cloth is it? Is it soft? Is it hard-wearing? Is it dear? How
long is it? How much does it cost"? Dennis exclaimed:
"You talk too much, and I don't sell things to chatterboxes," and off he
went. He passed by a statue and mistook it for a fine gentleman, so he asked
it, "Sir, would you like to buy this fine cloth? Yes or no? If you don't say
anything, that means you do. Look here! Do you like it? Yes? Good! Then take
it," and he left the cloth beside the statue and went home.
"Mum! Mum!" he cried. "I've sold the cloth to a very well-dressed
gentleman!" The woman asked:
"How much did he give you for it?" Dennis muttered,
"Oh! I forgot to ask him for the money! Don't worry, I'll go and ask him
for it." He ran back to the statue but the cloth had gone. Someone had clearly
taken it away. Said Dennis to the statue, "I see you've taken the cloth home
already. Fine, now give me the money!" Of course, the statue did not reply.
Dennis repeated his request, then losing his temper, he picked up a stick and
began to beat the statue about the head . . . which broke off and rolled to
the ground. Out of the head poured a handful of gold coins, hidden there by
goodness knows who! Dennis picked up the coins, put the head back in position
and went home.
"Look!" he called. And his mother stared in astonishment at this small
"Who gave you such a good price?" his mother asked him. The lad replied:
"A very dignified-looking gentleman. He didn't speak, and do you know where
he kept his money? In his head!" At this, Dennis's mother exclaimed:
"Dennis, listen! You killed the broody hen, broke the eggs, flooded the
cellar with wine, wasted five bags of flour, smashed plates, bottles, vases
and glasses; you nearly ate the cream, if you think you're going to pull my
leg as well you're badly mistaken! Get out of here!" And grabbing the broom,
she chased him out of the house.
"I don't want to see you again till tonight! Off you go into the vegetable
plot." But, as the boy was sitting on the doorstep and did not budge, his
exasperated mother picked up the first thing that came within her grasp and
hurled it at Dennis's head. It was a big basket of dried figs and sultanas.
Dennis shouted then:
"Mum! Mum! Quick! Bring a bag! It's raining dry figs and sultanas!" His
mother slumped into a chair and said sorrowfully:
"What can I do with a boy like him?"
Now, since Dennis went about telling folk he had a lot of gold coins, the
magistrates sent for him. "Where did you find those coins?" they asked him. Dennis replied:
"A gentleman gave me them in payment for a roll of cloth."
"What gentleman?" said the magistrates severely.
"The gentleman that is always standing at the corner of Plane Tree Street
and Jasmine Road," replied the boy.
"But that's a statue!" gasped the magistrates. Dennis said:
"He didn't say what his name was, but maybe it is Mr. Statue. He kept his
money in his head." The magistrates gaped at each other in utter astonishment.
Then the chief magistrate asked:
"Tell us, Dennis, when did you do this piece of business?"
"It was the day it rained dry figs and sultanas!" the boy replied. Again
the magistrates exchanged looks, and now certain that Dennis really was dopey,
"You can go home, lad, you're free!"
And so Dennis went home and lived there happily with his mother. A bit
dopey, yes, but he never did anybody any harm, and that's all that counts.