The Envious Neighbour

: The Violet Fairy Book

Long, long ago an old couple lived in a village, and, as they had

no children to love and care for, they gave all their affection

to a little dog. He was a pretty little creature, and instead of

growing spoilt and disagreeable at not getting everything he

wanted, as even children will do sometimes, the dog was grateful

to them for their kindness, and never left their side, whether

they were in the house or out of it.<
r />

One day the old man was working in his garden, with his dog, as

usual, close by. The morning was hot, and at last he put down

his spade and wiped his wet forehead, noticing, as he did so,

that the animal was snuffling and scratching at a spot a little

way off. There was nothing very strange in this, as all dogs are

fond of scratching, and he went on quietly with his digging, when

the dog ran up to his master, barking loudly, and back again to

the place where he had been scratching. This he did several

times, till the old man wondered what could be the matter, and,

picking up the spade, followed where the dog led him. The dog

was so delighted at his success that he jumped round, barking

loudly, till the noise brought the old woman out of the house.

Curious to know if the dog had really found anything, the husband

began to dig, and very soon the spade struck against something.

He stooped down and pulled out a large box, filled quite full

with shining gold pieces. The box was so heavy that the old

woman had to help to carry it home, and you may guess what a

supper the dog had that night! Now that he had made them rich,

they gave him every day all that a dog likes best to eat, and the

cushions on which he lay were fit for a prince.

The story of the dog and his treasure soon became known, and a

neighbour whose garden was next the old people's grew so envious

of their good luck that he could neither eat nor sleep. As the

dog had discovered a treasure once, this foolish man thought he

must be able to discover one always, and begged the old couple to

lend him their pet for a little while, so that he might be made

rich also.

'How can you ask such a thing?' answered the old man indignantly.

'You know how much we love him, and that he is never out of our

sight for five minutes.'

But the envious neighbour would not heed his words, and came

daily with the same request, till at last the old people, who

could not bear to say no to anyone, promised to lend the dog,

just for a night or two. No sooner did the man get hold of the

dog than he turned him into the garden, but the dog did nothing

but race about, and the man was forced to wait with what patience

he could.

The next morning the man opened the house door, and the dog

bounded joyfully into the garden, and, running up to the foot of

a tree, began to scratch wildly. The man called loudly to his

wife to bring a spade, and followed the dog, as he longed to

catch the first glimpse of the expected treasure. But when he

had dug up the ground, what did he find? Why, nothing but a

parcel of old bones, which smelt so badly that he could not stay

there a moment longer. And his heart was filled with rage

against the dog who had played him this trick, and he seized a

pickaxe and killed it on the spot, before he knew what he was

doing. When he remembered that he would have to go with his

story to the old man and his wife he was rather frightened, but

there was nothing to be gained by putting it off, so he pulled a

very long face and went to his neighbour's garden.

'Your dog,' said he, pretending to weep, 'has suddenly fallen

down dead, though I took every care of him, and gave him

everything he could wish for. And I thought I had better come

straight and tell you.'

Weeping bitterly, the old man went to fetch the body of his

favourite, and brought it home and buried it under the fig-tree

where he had found the treasure. From morning till night he and

his wife mourned over their loss, and nothing could comfort them.

At length, one night when he was asleep, he dreamt that the dog

appeared to him and told him to cut down the fig-tree over his

grave, and out of its wood to make a mortar. But when the old

man woke and thought of his dream he did not feel at all inclined

to cut down the tree, which bore well every year, and consulted

his wife about it. The woman did not hesitate a moment, and said

that after what had happened before, the dog's advice must

certainly be obeyed, so the tree was felled, and a beautiful

mortar made from it. And when the season came for the rice crop

to be gathered the mortar was taken down from its shelf, and the

grains placed in it for pounding, when, lo and behold! in a

twinkling of an eye, they all turned into gold pieces. At the

sight of all this gold the hearts of the old people were glad,

and once more they blessed their faithful dog.

But it was not long before this story also came to the ears of

their envious neighbour, and he lost no time in going to the old

people and asking if they happened to have a mortar which they

could lend him. The old man did not at all like parting with his

precious treasure, but he never could say no, so the neighbour

went off with the mortar under his arm.

The moment he got into his own house he took a great handful of

rice, and began to shell off the husks, with the help of his

wife. But, instead of the gold pieces for which they looked, the

rice turned into berries with such a horrible smell that they

were obliged to run away, after smashing the mortar in a rage and

setting fire to the bits.

The old people next door were naturally very much put out when

they learned the fate of their mortar, and were not at all

comforted by the explanations and excuses made by their

neighbour. But that night the dog again appeared in a dream to

his master, and told him that he must go and collect the ashes of

the burnt mortar and bring them home. Then, when he heard that

the Daimio, or great lord to whom this part of the country

belonged, was expected at the capital, he was to carry the ashes

to the high road, through which the procession would have to

pass. And as soon as it was in sight he was to climb up all the

cherry-trees and sprinkle the ashes on them, and they would soon

blossom as they had never blossomed before.

This time the old man did not wait to consult his wife as to

whether he was to do what his dog had told him, but directly he

got up he went to his neighbour's house and collected the ashes

of the burnt mortar. He put them carefully in a china vase, and

carried it to the high road, Sitting down on a seat till the

Daimio should pass. The cherry-trees were bare, for it was the

season when small pots of them were sold to rich people, who kept

them in hot places, so that they might blossom early and decorate

their rooms. As to the trees in the open air, no one would ever

think of looking for the tiniest bud for more than a month yet.

The old man had not been waiting very long before he saw a cloud

of dust in the far distance, and knew that it must be the

procession of the Daimio. On they came, every man dressed in his

finest clothes, and the crowd that was lining the road bowed

their faces to the ground as they went by. Only the old man did

not bow himself, and the great lord saw this, and bade one of his

courtiers, in anger, go and inquire why he had disobeyed the

ancient customs. But before the messenger could reach him the

old man had climbed the nearest tree and scattered his ashes far

and wide, and in an instant the white flowers had flashed into

life, and the heart of the Daimio rejoiced, and he gave rich

presents to the old man, whom he sent for to his castle.

We may be sure that in a very little while the envious neighbour

had heard this also, and his bosom was filled with hate. He

hastened to the place where he had burned the mortar, collected a

few of the ashes which the old man had left behind, and took them

to the road, hoping that his luck might be as good as the old

man's, or perhaps even better. His heart beat with pleasure when

he caught the first glimpses of the Daimio's train, and he held

himself ready for the right moment. As the Daimio drew near he

flung a great handful of ashes over the trees, but no buds or

flowers followed the action: instead, the ashes were all blown

back into the eyes of the Daimio and his warriors, till they

cried out from pain. Then the prince ordered the evil-doer to be

seized and bound and thrown into prison, where he was kept for

many months. By the time he was set free everybody in his native

village had found out his wickedness, and they would not let him

live there any longer; and as he would not leave off his evil

ways he soon went from bad to worse, and came to a miserable end.

[Japanische Marchen.]