Tales of Old Lusitania/Patranha
(A POPULAR STORY.)
There was once a man who tenanted a farm belonging to a nobleman. This man had two sons, one was an idiot and the other was preparing for the priesthood. It happened that on a very dry season, when rain had been scarce, and consequently the land was parched and the crop a short one, the poor honest farmer, finding that he would be unable to pay his noble landlord the usual measures of wheat in payment of his rent, went to speak to his landlord to state his difficulties and to tell him that he would be unable to pay his rent at the time, and hoped he would give him time in which to do so. The nobleman, who seems to have had a kind heart, and was not hard upon his tenants, and moreover was fond of a joke, told the man that he would forgive him the whole debt if he could manage to invent a lie which would be the length of a Pater Noster. The simple man replied, "My Lord, I have a son who is continually pouring over books on falsehood, and various aberrations of fancy. I shall go home and ask him if he has any book with a lie as long as a Pater Noster; and if he has one you may be sure I shall return immediately with it so as to satisfy your demand." The man returned home in great haste, and nearly out of breath asked his son to look among his books and try to find him a lie which would take him as long to say as a Pater Noster. To this his clever son replied that he had never found one so long in any of his books. The idiot, who was listening to the conversation of his father and brother, and saw that his father had remained very disconsolate, asked him why he seemed so sorrowful, and requested him to tell him the reason of his sadness. But to this the father's only answer was, "You are only a fool, and not likely to find a remedy for my present misfortune."
"Who knows but I may be able to help you for all that; pray, father, tell me what distresses you."
"Well, if you must know," said the father, "it is this: my landlord has promised to remit my debt to him if I can tell him a lie the length of a Pater Noster; but your clever brother says that in all his books there is not a lie to be found as long."
The idiot son remained silent, but sought the first opportunity to go and see the landlord, and in confidence said to him, "My Lord, I have come to tell you that my father is not half as poor as he makes himself out to be to you. He has an enclosed field of wheat which yields him four hundred cartfulls of loaves of bread, and he has a large number of beehives arranged round the hedges of this field, and you may imagine the number of them when I tell you that he failed in the attempt to count them. But, however, he managed to count the number of bees, and he found that one of them was wanting, which, after much seeking, he found in a wood half eaten up by two wolves. There only remained the hind quarters of this unfortunate bee, so he rescued it from them with his clasp knife; but in the act of so doing he let fall his knife between the wolves. He therefore went home for a light, and set fire to the wood to frighten the wolves away and get his knife back again. The fire, however, melted the knife and only the handle remained. He went to the cutler's and asked him to make him another knife, but instead of a knife the cutler made him a fish-hook. My father then went to fish, and as he drew out the line, a great donkey came out of the water, which had been caught by the lip; this donkey was harnessed with panniers on each side; so that, delighted at his good luck, my father had nothing to do but mount him and ride back to the wood to seek for the hind quarters of the lost bee, which he found. He squeezed out the honey from the bee, or what remained of it, and it yielded him a barrel of honey. He loaded the donkey with it, but from the heavy weight, and the knocking about he got from the load, the poor donkey got most dreadful sores on his back, so that my father was obliged to take it to the veterinary surgeon. The surgeon ordered a poultice of bean-flour to be applied, but my father, instead of using flour, made the poultice with whole beans. From this poultice a field full of beans grew upon the donkey's back. An enormous melon also grew upon the donkey, which, as my father attempted to cut in two with his large hatchet, the hatchet fell inside the melon. My father went down into the melon to get his hatchet. Inside the melon he found a man who told him that he had lost two oxen attached to a harrow, which he had been seeking inside the melon for the last eight days. He told my father to go away and not be so silly. My father then fastened a long, very long, ladder upon the donkey, and ascended up to heaven by the help of it, where he found all the noblemen's seats ready for them. But for your excellency there was not one prepared, as far as I know."
"Great scoundrel!" cried the lord, full of wrath at having had his time taken up with this tissue of lies, "be off, you thief, with your big lie; let me never catch you here again."
"Ha! hal" cried the idiot, clapping his hands, "My father does not owe you anything now, so I have won the day!"