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ONCE upon a time there were two brothers, one of whom had abundance, but the other was very poor. p. 268 As is the way of the world, riches do not heed poverty, and thus it was with the two brothers. The rich one would not give the poor one even a spoonful of soup.
One day the rich brother gave a great feast. The poor brother expected to have been invited, but his hopes were vain.
All at once a bright idea struck him, and he went to the river and caught three large pike. “I’ll carry these to my brother,” said he, “and perhaps they will bring me a blessing.”
He took the fish to his brother, and addressed him humbly, like a rich lord. But it made no difference. His brother only said, “Many thanks,” turned his back, and went off.
What could the poor brother do? He also turned round, and went his way, sorrowfully reflecting, “He is my brother in name indeed, but he’s worse than an entire stranger!”
All at once he saw an old man sitting by the road, who rose up quickly and went towards him, saying, “Friend, why do you look so sorrowfully on the world?”
“Sorrowful or not,” said the poor brother, “it goes well enough with me! I brought my rich p. 269 brother three fish for a present, and he didn’t even give me a drink in return!”
“But you perhaps got something else?” asked the old man.
“Oh, yes, ‘many thanks,’ ” said he; “that’s your something else!”
The old man answered, “Give me your ‘many thanks,’ and you shall become a rich man.”
“Take it, and welcome,” said the poor brother.
Then the old man instructed him as follows:— “Go home, look for Poverty under the stove, and throw it into the river, and you shall see how it will fare with you.”
Then he went his way, and the poor brother returned home. He found Poverty under the stove, seized it, and flung it into the river.
After this, everything which he undertook succeeded with the poor brother, and it was a real marvel to see how he got on. His fields grew fine harvests, and his barns and stables were soon more imposing than his rich brother’s.
When the rich brother saw it, he grew envious, and wanted to know how the other had got wealthy. He was always teasing him to know how it was, and at last the other got tired of it, and said, p. 270 “How did I get rich? I dragged Poverty out from under the stove, and threw it in the water. That’s how it was!”
“That’s how it was,” cried the rich brother. “Wait a bit! your sort shan’t outdo me!”
So he went to the river and fished for Poverty, from whom he supposed that his poor brother had received everything. He fished and fished, and would do nothing else, till at length he held Poverty fast.
While he inspected and examined it at home, it slipped through his fingers and hid under his stove, and nobody could get it out again.
After this everything went worse and worse with the rich brother, till he became at last quite poor, and remained so.
This story, which I have not abridged, is a well-known Sclavonic legend. It is probably connected with the story of the three apes which forms the introduction to that of “Khaleefeh the Fisherman,” in the Thousand and One Nights.