chapter  32
8 Pages

The Two Brothers

There was once a well-to-do farmer who had eighty acres of land but only two sons. One of them was very industrious and upstanding-he enjoyed working and managing the farm, but the younger one was a loafer, a ne’er-do-well, who had taken to drinking and playing cards. That’s all he ever did. He picked the house clean and de­pleted their wealth. His father noticed it and one day said to him:“Son, what will become of you if you don’t want to work? Don’t you see that everything rests on your brother’s shoulders-the stable, the fields-he is always work­ing inside and outside, and you don’t want to touch a thing. You just drift and bum around. And I see,” he said, “that the flour is dwindling in the sacks and the grain is running low in the attic, all because you are lazing about.”The son answered: “This suits me. I am the younger one, I should be treated with consideration.”“That’s fine, my son, but you could also show some consideration for your brother. Make a little effort! He has too much to cope with.”There were stables with cattle, horses, and mares, and there were sheep and cows. The farm was very large so the son thought it could be run like a count’s.Once again the father said to him: “Son, I see that you are not improving, you are becoming worse by the day, all you do is squander a lot of money. I can’t condone such behavior. You’ll come to regret it for I’ll leave everything to your brother and you can go for all I care!”This made the young man hold his tongue, but he couldn’t shed his bad habits. He kept the wrong company and continued his riotous living. He hired musicians, arranged one ball after another, spent heaps of money in the tavern, and lost a great deal playing cards.Well, the father knew that he was a spendthrift. He was no longer to be his son if all he did was throw money away.One day he said to him: “Look, son, I give you two acres of land, a wagon with two horses, a cow, a good, fat pig, and you can go and be on your own. I’ll even build you a house on the two acres. You may do with it as you please, but if you get into trouble, it will be your lookout. I won’t argue with you any more and I’ll leave every­thing else to your brother.”“All right, father, but then I’ll take a wife.”“Do that, I don’t care, whether you take the daughter of a count or a Gypsy for your wife, it’s your business.”So, he had the house built and let his son go. He gave him two horses and a wagon, a milking cow and fat pig for slaughter. All was well, so far.But the father’s farm was so large that herds of pigs and sheep were driven out

to pasture. He was a very wealthy man, like a count. His older son worked like a beast, day in and day out.He said to him: “Son, you are not getting ahead in spite of all your efforts. You ought to take a wife,” he said, “a woman could give you a hand and you’d have it easier. Your mother is old, she can’t work any more, she could use the help too.”So the son got married. He wed a girl who had sixty acres. She was an only child and had a very rich father. He gave her sixty acres of land and now the farm became even larger. It was a handsome estate, fit for a count. He managed it well, worked hard, hired laborers, and cultivated the land. Nothing was left unattended, he took care of everything. Well, he was a wealthy man.One day his younger brother said to him: “You could hire me as a day laborer. I can’t eke out a living from the two acres, it’s not enough. I’ll come to work for you and you pay me as you would a stranger.”“I won’t pay you the same as I would a stranger. I’ll pay you the regular wages and then once again as much,” answered the brother, “I see that you are not as well off as I am and I feel sorry for you.”So he went to work there every day and when he returned home, he always carried bagfuls of wheat flour, slabs of bacon, and links of sausages with him.“Here, take this for your wife. She should have good things to eat, too, while you work here.”And so it went every day. Then the father fell ill and died. He died and the older brother was left alone with his mother. But before he died the father said:“I entrust you with your mother, my son. Take good care of her and when she dies give her a decent burial!”“All right, father.”“But don’t give anything more to your brother, not an inch, not a foot of land, he doesn’t deserve it.”So, the three of them went on living together, the young woman with her hus­band and the mother. They had a good life and managed the farm well.One day the younger brother said to his wife: “Well, wife, I won’t go along with this any more.”“Go along with what?”“Working for my brother every day. His father was my father too, not only his, and she is my mother, just as she is his. And I should go on working for him as a day laborer, for wages? It hurts me deeply,” he said, “that they made him into a count and paid me off with two acres of land. This is not justice.”“If this is what your father decided, it has to be so. It is stamped and sealed, the property has been divided. You got what he thought you deserved. This is what he gave you, and there is nothing you can do about it.”“But I will do something about it.”One day the older brother said to his wife: “Tomorrow we’ll both go out into the field to hoe.” 339

Meanwhile the mother had died, too. She died and he gave her a fine funeral.He said: “Look, a lot of time has passed since my mother died, since we had her buried and did what was needed. Now the weeds have grown so tall in our cornfield that they are choking the crop. Let’s leave everything and go hoeing tomorrow morn-mg. “I don’t mind,” she said, “I like to hoe.”So they left, locked the door, and went out to the field. But the younger brother knew where they kept the key. He went there, walked into the pantry and looked around. He saw a roomful of lard, sausages, and ham hanging from the ceiling and bags of wheat flour and bread set out on a bench. And there were at least ten containers filled with fat, lined up in a row.He said: “Is this fair? Here it is packed to overflowing with all manner of things and I should work as a day laborer to provide for our bare necessities? This must change.”He went and dug up his mother from the grave and at nightfall took her home. The young couple had not yet returned from the field, so he took the mother in the pantry and sat the dead body down beside the door. He placed a container of fat in front of her and put a wooden spoon in her hand. He stuck it between her stiff fingers and lifted it up to her mouth. But he dipped the spoon in the fat first, before bringing it to her mouth, to make it appear that she was eating. He sprinkled wheat flour on his mother’s apron then he emptied the bag, leaving a handful at the bottom, and took the rest of the flour home. He also left a spoonful of fat in the container. The container was large, it could have easily held thirty kilos and it was full to the brim. He poured out all the fat and took it with him. When he thought that he had taken enough of everything he left his mother there.Soon the couple came home. The young woman ran to milk the cows. She made haste, finished milking and carried the full buckets inside, into the pantry, where she kept them. She walked in with the milk and, dear God Almighty, she saw the mother sitting there with the container of fat and eating from it. There was flour strewn about and one bag stood empty, she had eaten it. The young woman rushed to the stable screaming and lamenting.“What is the matter with you, my dear?”“Oh my,” she said, “your mother came home!”“Well, where is she, if she came home? She is dead!”“She is there, in the pantry. There is a container of fat in front of her,” she said, “she is eating from it. And the flour is gone from one bag, she only left a little at the bottom.”“Go on, you must have been dreaming! What’s wrong with you? What got intoyou?” The young man went inside and found that it was really so. He had such a fright that he backed out the door. Seeing his mother gave the young man a shock.“But she is dead, how is it that she came home?”