After even years loyally serving a colonial wares merchant, gold-honest, gullible optimist Hans follows the call of the sea, back to his coastal home and gets paid generously by his master with a heavy gold nugget. Tiring of the load, he expresses envy of a squire on horse-back, who eagerly switches his mount for the gold. Thrown off by the horse, Hans delights a farmer by switching it for a cow, and when another farmer claims it's an old one out of milk, the bovine for his pig, which a passing journeyman suggests may be reported stolen yet happily switches for his goose. This Hans trades for a scissor-grinder's deprecated spare grindstone as 'dream job', only to dump it in a pit due to its weight. Thus he arrives at sea, penniless, at the same time as Elisabeth, the handsome, commercially gifted daughter of greedy merchant Knudsen, who had mixed feelings about his hedonistic welcoming of financially bad deals, ending up thanking God for his 'freedom'.