Tales of Old Lusitania/The Poor and the Rich Godfather

Tales of Old Lusitania - chapter 31 headpiece.jpg


Two godfathers once lived in the same hamlet, one was a poor man and the other was rich, but miserly. It was the custom among the people of that country whenever they killed a pig to make a present of the loin to the abbot. Now, the rich godfather wanted to kill his pig, but could not bring himself to part with any portion of it, and not knowing how to avoid doing so he betook himself to his neighbour's house and began grumbling at the absurdity of the custom. His neighbour, though poor, was not wanting in artfulness, and, moreover, despised the rich man for his stinginess; he said he would give him a piece of advice by which he could get out of his dilemma; and that was to hang up the loin in the garden over night, and at early dawn to bring it in, and say that some one had stolen it.

The miser was charmed with the suggestion and followed it out to the very letter; when he had finished hanging up the loin he went to bed, intending to rise very early next morning and bring in the piece of pork. The other man, however, took good care he should not find it there next morning, for during the night he got it safely into his own house.

The rich godfather rose early next morning, dressed hurriedly, and proceeded to the garden to fetch the loin, and finding that it was gone he ran in great distress of mind to his neighbour's house to tell him of his loss. He seized his neighbour's arm and gesticulated frantically as he told him what had occurred. The needy godfather, purposely misunderstanding him, cried, "Well done! that's the way to do it, gossip! Bravo! Very well, very well indeed! You act it capitally. Anyone would believe you. If you do like that before the abbot, you will get off easily; he will think you have really lost the loin, and will excuse you, gossip."

The more the rich man protested that he was speaking seriously, that it was no joke, but the loin of pork had in truth been stolen from his garden, the more did the poor man laugh and applaud him for his good acting, until, despairing of making his friend understand that he was in earnest, he left him and went home.

The godfather who had purloined the piece of pork was left chuckling at the success of his sharp stroke of business. Going up to his wife, he said, "I tell you what, wife, we must now see if we can't manage to get some wine from the same quarter; you go to our friend, crying, and as if running away from me, pretending that I want to beat you. Take a wine bag under your dress, and when you hear my voice, run as if you were afraid of me, and hide in our gossip's wine cellar; and while I am talking to him, fill the bag with wine, slip out by the other door, and go home."

The wife, pretending to be in great trouble, ran to the rich godfather's house, and implored him to defend her from her husband, who wanted to kill her. Then, hearing the sound of her husband's voice, she ran down into the cellar, and while the godfather was doing his best to calm her husband's wrath, she was busy filling the leathern bag with wine. But she had forgotten to bring a string to tie the bag with. So she began singing out, "Oh, dear, there is no string to the neck of the bag!"

The husband, who understood what she wanted, replied, "Ah! you wicked woman! When I get down to you, I'll choke you with the ribbon that binds your hair!" The moment she heard these words she unfastened her hair, tied the mouth of the bag with the ribbon, and quickly went home with it. In this manner they got both pork and wine without having to pay for it, while they had the great satisfaction of outwitting the miserly godfather.

(Lisbon. From a person from Beira-Baixa.)