The Rich Brother And The Poor Brother

: The Lilac Fairy Book

There was once a rich old man who had two sons, and as his wife

was dead, the elder lived with him, and helped him to look after

his property. For a long time all went well; the young man got up

very early in the morning, and worked hard all day, and at the

end of every week his father counted up the money they had made,

and rubbed his hands with delight, as he saw how big the pile of

gold in the strong iron chest was
ecoming. 'It will soon be full

now, and I shall have to buy a larger one,' he said to himself,

and so busy was he with the thought of his money, that he did not

notice how bright his son's face had grown, nor how he sometimes

started when he was spoken to, as if his mind was far away.

One day, however, the old man went to the city on business, which

he had not done for three years at least. It was market day, and

he met with many people he knew, and it was getting quite late

when he turned into the inn yard, and bade an ostler saddle his

horse, and bring it round directly. While he was waiting in the

hall, the landlady came up for a gossip, and after a few remarks

about the weather and the vineyards she asked him how he liked

his new daughter-in-law, and whether he had been surprised at the


The old man stared as he listened to her. 'Daughter-in-law?

Marriage?' said he. 'I don't know what you are talking about!

I've got no daughter-in-law, and nobody has been married lately,

that I ever heard of.'

Now this was exactly what the landlady, who was very curious,

wanted to find out; but she put on a look of great alarm, and


'Oh, dear! I hope I have not made mischief. I had no idea--or, of

course, I would not have spoken--but'--and here she stopped and

fumbled with her apron, as if she was greatly embarrassed.

'As you have said so much you will have to say a little more,'

retorted the old man, a suspicion of what she meant darting

across him; and the woman, nothing loth, answered as before.

'Ah, it was not all for buying or selling that your handsome son

has been coming to town every week these many months past. And

not by the shortest way, either! No, it was over the river he

rode, and across the hill and past the cottage of Miguel the

vine-keeper, whose daughter, they say, is the prettiest girl in

the whole country side, though she is too white for my taste,'

and then the landlady paused again, and glanced up at the farmer,

to see how he was taking it. She did not learn much. He was

looking straight before him, his teeth set. But as she ceased to

talk, he said quietly, 'Go on.'

'There is not much more to tell,' replied the landlady, for she

suddenly remembered that she must prepare supper for the hungry

men who always stopped at the inn on market days, before starting

for home, 'but one fine morning they both went to the little

church on top of the hill, and were married. My cousin is servant

to the priest, and she found out about it and told me. But good-

day to you, sir; here is your horse, and I must hurry off to the


It was lucky that the horse was sure-footed and knew the road,

for his bridle hung loose on his neck, and his master took no

heed of the way he was going. When the farm-house was reached,

the man led the animal to the stable, and then went to look for

his son.

'I know everything--you have deceived me. Get out of my sight at

once--I have done with you,' he stammered, choking with passion

as he came up to the young man, who was cutting a stick in front

of the door, whistling gaily the while.

'But, father--'

'You are no son of mine; I have only one now. Begone, or it will

be the worse for you,' and as he spoke he lifted up his whip.

The young man shrank back. He feared lest his father should fall

down in a fit, his face was so red and his eyes seemed bursting

from his head. But it was no use staying: perhaps next morning

the old man might listen to reason, though in his heart the son

felt that he would never take back his words. So he turned slowly

away, and walked heavily along a path which ended in a cave on

the side of his hill, and there he sat through the night,

thinking of what had happened.

Yes, he had been wrong, there was no doubt of that, and he did

not quite know how it had come about. He had meant to have told

his father all about it, and he was sure, quite sure, that if

once the old man had seen his wife, he would have forgiven her

poverty on account of her great beauty and goodness. But he had

put it off from day to day, hoping always for a better

opportunity, and now this was the end!

If the son had no sleep that night, no more had the father, and

as soon as the sun rose, he sent a messenger into the great city

with orders to bring back the younger brother. When he arrived

the farmer did not waste words, but informed him that he was now

his only heir, and would inherit all his lands and money, and

that he was to come and live at home, and to help manage the


Though very pleased at the thought of becoming such a rich man--

for the brothers had never cared much for each other--the younger

would rather have stayed where he was, for he soon got tired of

the country, and longed for a town life. However, this he kept to

himself, and made the best of things, working hard like his

brother before him.

In this way the years went on, but the crops were not so good as

they had been, and the old man gave orders that some fine houses

he was building in the city should be left unfinished, for it

would take all the savings to complete them. As to the elder son,

he would never even hear his name mentioned, and died at last

without ever seeing his face, leaving to the younger, as he had

promised, all his lands, as well as his money.

Meanwhile, the son whom he had disinherited had grown poorer and

poorer. He and his wife were always looking out for something to

do, and never spent a penny that they could help, but luck was

against them, and at the time of his father's death they had

hardly bread to eat or clothes to cover them. If there had been

only himself, he would have managed to get on somehow, but he

could not bear to watch his children becoming weaker day by day,

and swallowing his pride, at length he crossed the mountains to

his old home where his brother was living.

It was the first time for long that the two men had come face to

face, and they looked at each other in silence. Then tears rose

in the eyes of the elder, but winking them hastily away, he said:

'Brother, it is not needful that I should tell you how poor I am;

you can see that for yourself. I have not come to beg for money,

but only to ask if you will give me those unfinished houses of

yours in the city, and I will make them watertight, so that my

wife and children can live in them, and that will save our rent.

For as they are, they profit you nothing.'

And the younger brother listened and pitied him, and gave him the

houses that he asked for, and the elder went away happy.

For some years things went on as they were, and then the rich

brother began to feel lonely, and thought to himself that he was

getting older, and it was time for him to be married. The wife he

chose was very wealthy, but she was also very greedy, and however

much she had, she always wanted more. She was, besides, one of

those unfortunate people who invariably fancy that the

possessions of other people must be better than their own. Many a

time her poor husband regretted the day that he had first seen

her, and often her meanness and shabby ways put him to shame. But

he had not the courage to rule her, and she only got worse and


After she had been married a few months the bride wanted to go

into the city and buy herself some new dresses. She had never

been there before, and when she had finished her shopping, she

thought she would pay a visit to her unknown sister-in-law, and

rest for a bit. The house she was seeking was in a broad street,

and ought to have been very magnificent, but the carved stone

portico enclosed a mean little door of rough wood, while a row of

beautiful pillars led to nothing. The dwelling on each side were

in the same unfinished condition, and water trickled down the

walls. Most people would have considered it a wretched place, and

turned their backs on it as soon as they could, but this lady saw

that by spending some money the houses could be made as splendid

as they were originally intended to be, and she instantly

resolved to get them for herself.

Full of this idea she walked up the marble staircase, and entered

the little room where her sister-in-law sat, making clothes for

her children. The bride seemed full of interest in the houses,

and asked a great many questions about them, so that her new

relations liked her much better than they expected, and hoped

they might be good friends. However, as soon as she reached home,

she went straight to her husband, and told him that he must get

back those houses from his brother, as they would exactly suit

her, and she could easily make them into a palace as fine as the

king's. But her husband only told her that she might buy houses

in some other part of the town, for she could not have those, as

he had long since made a gift of them to his brother, who had

lived there for many years past.

At this answer the wife grew very angry. She began to cry, and

made such a noise that all the neighbours heard her and put their

heads out of the windows, to see what was the matter. 'It was

absurd,' she sobbed out, 'quite unjust. Indeed, if you came to

think of it, the gift was worth nothing, as when her husband made

it he was a bachelor, and since then he had been married, and she

had never given her consent to any such thing.' And so she

lamented all day and all night, till the poor man was nearly

worried to death; and at last he did what she wished, and

summoned his brother in a court of law to give up the houses

which, he said, had only been lent to him. But when the evidence

on both sides had been heard, the judge decided in favour of the

poor man, which made the rich lady more furious than ever, and

she determined not to rest until she had gained the day. If one

judge would not give her the houses another should, and so time

after time the case was tried over again, till at last it came

before the highest judge of all, in the city of Evora. Her

husband was heartily tired and ashamed of the whole affair, but

his weakness in not putting a stop to it in the beginning had got

him into this difficulty, and now he was forced to go on.

On the same day the two brothers set out on their journey to the

city, the rich one on horseback, with plenty of food in his

knapsack, the poor one on foot with nothing but a piece of bread

and four onions to eat on the way. The road was hilly and neither

could go very fast, and when night fell, they were both glad to

see some lights in a window a little distance in front of them.

The lights turned out to have been placed there by a farmer, who

had planned to have a particularly good supper as it was his

wife's birthday, and bade the rich man enter and sit down, while

he himself took the horse to the stable. The poor man asked

timidly if he might spend the night in a corner, adding that he

had brought his own supper with him. Another time permission

might have been refused him, for the farmer was no lover of

humble folk, but now he gave the elder brother leave to come in,

pointing out a wooden chair where he could sit.

Supper was soon served, and very glad the younger brother was to

eat it, for his long ride had made him very hungry. The farmer's

wife, however, would touch nothing, and at last declared that the

only supper she wanted was one of the onions the poor man was

cooking at the fire. Of course he gave it to her, though he would

gladly have eaten it himself, as three onions are not much at the

end of a long day's walk, and soon after they all went to sleep,

the poor man making himself as comfortable as he could in his


A few hours later the farmer was aroused by the cries and groans

of his wife.

'Oh, I feel so ill, I'm sure I'm going to die,' wept she. 'It was

that onion, I know it was. I wish I had never eaten it. It must

have been poisoned.'

'If the man has poisoned you he shall pay for it,' said her

husband, and seizing a thick stick he ran downstairs and began to

beat the poor man, who had been sound asleep, and had nothing to

defend himself with. Luckily, the noise aroused the younger

brother, who jumped up and snatched the stick from the farmer's

hand, saying:

'We are both going to Evora to try a law-suit. Come too, and

accuse him there if he has attempted to rob you or murder you,

but don't kill him now, or you will get yourself into trouble.'

'Well, perhaps you are right,' answered the farmer, 'but the

sooner that fellow has his deserts, the better I shall be

pleased,' and without more words he went to the stables and

brought out a horse for himself and also the black Andalusian

mare ridden by the rich man, while the poor brother, fearing more

ill-treatment, started at once on foot.

Now all that night it had rained heavily, and did not seem likely

to stop, and in some places the road was so thick with mud that

it was almost impossible to get across it. In one spot it was so

very bad that a mule laden with baggage had got stuck in it, and

tug as he might, his master was quite unable to pull him out. The

muleteer in despair appealed to the two horseman, who were

carefully skirting the swamp at some distance off, but they paid

no heed to his cries, and he began to talk cheerfully to his

mule, hoping to keep up his spirits, declaring that if the poor

beast would only have a little patience help was sure to come.

And so it did, for very soon the poor brother reached the place,

bespattered with mud from head to foot, but ready to do all he

could to help with the mule and his master. First they set about

finding some stout logs of wood to lay down on the marsh so that

they could reach the mule, for by this time his frantic struggles

had broken his bridle, and he was deeper in than ever. Stepping

cautiously along the wood, the poor man contrived to lay hold of

the animal's tale, and with a desperate effort the mule managed

to regain his footing on dry ground, but at the cost of leaving

his tail in the poor man's hand. When he saw this the muleteer's

anger knew no bounds, and forgetting that without the help given

him he would have lost his mule altogether, he began to abuse the

poor man, declaring that he had ruined his beast, and the law

would make him pay for it. Then, jumping on the back of the mule,

which was so glad to be out of the choking mud that he did not

seem to mind the loss of his tail, the ungrateful wretch rode on,

and that evening reached the inn at Evora, where the rich man and

the farmer had already arrived for the night.

Meanwhile the poor brother walked wearily along, wondering what

other dreadful adventures were in store for him.

'I shall certainly be condemned for one or other of them,'

thought he sadly; 'and after all, if I have to die, I would

rather choose my own death than leave it to my enemies,' and as

soon as he entered Evora he looked about for a place suitable for

carrying out the plan he had made. At length he found what he

sought, but as it was too late and too dark for him to make sure

of success, he curled himself up under a doorway, and slept till


Although it was winter, the sun rose in a clear sky, and its rays

felt almost warm when the poor man got up and shook himself. He

intended it to be the day of his death, but in spite of that, and

of the fact that he was leaving his wife and children behind him,

he felt almost cheerful. He had struggled so long, and was so

very, very tired; but he would not have minded that if he could

have proved his innocence, and triumphed over his enemies.

However, they had all been too clever for him, and he had no

strength to fight any more. So he mounted the stone steps that

led to the battlements of the city, and stopped for a moment to

gaze about him.

It happened that an old sick man who lived near by had begged to

be carried out and to be laid at the foot of the wall so that the

beams of the rising sun might fall upon him, and he would be able

to talk with his friends as they passed by to their work. Little

did he guess that on top of the battlements, exactly over his

head, stood a man who was taking his last look at the same sun,

before going to his death that awaited him. But so it was; and as

the steeple opposite was touched by the golden light, the poor

man shut his eyes and sprang forward. The wall was high, and he

flew rapidly through the air, but it was not the ground he

touched, only the body of the sick man, who rolled over and died

without a groan. As for the other, he was quite unhurt, and was

slowly rising to his feet when his arms were suddenly seized and


'You have killed our father, do you see? do you see?' cried two

young men, 'and you will come with us this instant before the

judge, and answer for it.'

'Your father? but I don't know him. What do you mean?' asked the

poor man, who was quite bewildered with his sudden rush through

the air, and could not think why he should be accused of this

fresh crime. But he got no reply, and was only hurried through

the streets to the court-house, where his brother, the muleteer,

and the farmer had just arrived, all as angry as ever, all

talking at once, till the judge entered and ordered them to be


'I will hear you one by one,' he said, and motioned the younger

brother to begin.

He did not take long to state his case. The unfinished houses

were his, left him with the rest of the property by his father,

and his brother refused to give them up. In answer, the poor man

told, in a few words, how he had begged the houses from his

brother, and produced the deed of gift which made him their


The judge listened quietly and asked a few questions; then he

gave his verdict.

'The houses shall remain the property of the man to whom they

were given, and to whom they belong. And as you,' he added,

turning to the younger brother, 'brought this accusation knowing

full well it was wicked and unjust, I order you, besides losing

the houses, to pay a thousand pounds damages to your brother.'

The rich man heard the judge with rage in his heart, the poor man

with surprise and gratitude. But he was not safe yet, for now it

was the turn of the farmer. The judge could hardly conceal a

smile at the story, and inquired if the wife was dead before the

farmer left the house, and received for answer that he was in

such a hurry for justice to be done that he had not waited to

see. Then the poor man told his tale, and once more judgment was

given in his favour, while twelve hundred pounds was ordered to

be paid him. As for the muleteer, he was informed very plainly

that he had proved himself mean and ungrateful for the help that

had been given him, and as a punishment he must pay to the poor

man a fine of fifty pounds, and hand him over the mule till his

tail had grown again.

Lastly, there came the two sons of the sick man.

'This is the wretch who killed our father,' they said, 'and we

demand that he should die also.'

'How did you kill him?' asked the judge, turning to the accused,

and the poor man told how he had leaped from the wall, not

knowing that anyone was beneath.

'Well, this is my judgment,' replied the judge, when they had all

spoken: 'Let the accused sit under the wall, and let the sons of

the dead man jump from the top and fall on him and kill him, and

if they will not to this, then they are condemned to pay eight

hundred pounds for their false accusation.'

The young men looked at each other, and slowly shook their heads.

'We will pay the fine,' said they, and the judge nodded.

So the poor man rode the mule home, and brought back to his

family enough money to keep them in comfort to the end of their


Adapted from the Portuguese.