从前有个穷放羊娃失去了父母，官府把他安置在一个富人家中，由这富人供他吃饭并抚养成人。 但这富人和他女人的心肠都很坏，又贪婪，总是牢牢守住自己的财富，任何人吃了他们一小块面包，他们都会大发雷霆。 这个可怜的穷小伙子无论怎么做，得到的食物总是很少，相反挨的打却很多。
一天，他被派去看护一只母鸡和一群小崽。 但母鸡却带着小鸡从树篱里逃了出去，这时一只老鹰突然俯冲而下，把母鸡叼上了空中。 这男孩竭尽全力大喊："小偷！小偷！流氓！"但这有什么用呢？ 老鹰可不会把到嘴的东西吐出来的。 富人闻声赶来，发现母鸡不见了，他非常生气，恶狠狠地打了那男孩，以致男孩两天都不能动弹。 接下来这男孩就得照管好这些没有妈妈的小鸡了，这当然要更困难些。 因为小鸡总是东跑一只，西跑一只。 结果他就自做聪明，把所有的小鸡用一根绳子拴在一块，这样老鹰就叼不走任何一只了。 但他这样做实在是大错特错了。 那两天中，他东奔西跑，又累又饿，所以很快就睡着了。 老鹰又来了，把一群小鸡全叼走了，然后停在树上，吞吃着小鸡。 那个富人正好赶回家来，当明白了所发生的灾难时，一下子怒火中烧，毫不留情地又打了那男孩一顿，以致男孩好几天不得不躺在床上，不能动弹。
当他又能走路后，富人对他说："你这没用的东西，我没法让你成为一个牧人，你去替我跑跑腿吧。"于是他就让男孩去给法官送一篮葡萄另带一封信。 一路上男孩又饥又渴，非常难受，便私自偷吃了两串葡萄。 他把篮子带到了法官那儿，法官看信后数了数葡萄，说："少了两串。"男孩很老实地向法官坦白说迫于饥渴，已吃了那两串葡萄。 法官给富人去了封信，又要了同样数目的葡萄。 这次又由男孩把葡萄连同一封信一起送去，由于他实在太饿太渴了，忍不住又吃了两串葡萄。 但这次他先把信从篮子里取出来，放在一块石头下，然后坐在石头上，认为这样那封信就看不见他吃葡萄了，也不会出卖他了。 然而法官再次让他解释那两串不见了的葡萄是怎么回事。 "啊！"男孩惊奇地说，"你怎么会知道？那封信不可能知道这事，因为吃葡萄之前我把他放在石头下了。"男孩实在是太单纯了，法官禁不住笑了。 后来他给富人取了一封信，要他好好待这小孩，不要缺他饮食，并要教会他辨别是非。
"我会很快教会你是非的，"狠心的人说，"你要吃，就得干活，要是有何差错 ，我就用棒子来好好教训你。 "
第二天，富人给了男孩一个艰巨任务，让他把两捆干稻草切碎做马料。 富人还威胁他说："五点钟后我就会回来，如果你到时还没切好，我就会把你打趴下。"富人带着他的女人和女仆去赶一年一度的集会去了，只给男孩留了一小块面包。 男孩坐在凳上，开始拼命地干起活来。 当他干得热起来时，便脱下了褂子扔在稻草上。 由于担心不能及时完成，手中一刻也不敢怠慢，匆忙间也没注意到，竟把小褂子连同稻草一起给切了。 等他意识到这件可怕的事时，已为时太晚。 褂子已没法补了。 "哎！""他叫道，"我什么都完了，那恶人可不只是吓唬吓唬我，如果等他回来看见了，他会收拾我的，我还不如自己了断一切。 "
男孩曾听到富人的女人说过："我床底下有一罐毒药。"她那样说不过是想吓吓那些贪婪的人，其实里面装的是蜂蜜。 男孩爬到床下，拿出罐子，喝光里面所有的蜂蜜。 "我真不明白，"他说道，"人们常说死是痛苦的，但我尝起来却是甘甜的。难怪富农的女人老是想死！"说完便坐在一把椅子上，等死。 但他非但没有因此而变得越来越虚弱，相反，由于吃了那些滋补的食物，他变得更强壮了。 "这不可能是毒药，"他想，"但富人有一次说过他有一瓶灭蚊虫的毒药，那肯定是真正的毒药了，吃了肯定会死的。"不过，这些也不是灭飞虫的毒药，而是匈牙利酒。 男孩拿起了那瓶酒，一喝而光，心想这下是准死无疑了。 "我想我肯定会死了！"他说道，"不如先到教堂的墓地去，到那儿找个坟墓。"他跌跌撞撞地走到了教堂墓地，找了一个新掘好的坟墓躺下，慢慢地觉得失去了知觉。 附近有一家旅店正在举行婚礼，声音传了过来，他以为自己已经到了天堂，不久他完全失去了知觉了。 这可怜的孩子再也没有醒来，灼热的烈酒和晚间的寒露夺去了他的生命，从此他就一直这样躺在那坟墓中。
当富人得知男孩死了，很是害怕，担心被带上法庭。 他情绪是如此低落，苦恼老是困扰着他，不久就昏过去了。 他的女人正站在灶边炼一满锅的油 ，便跑来救他，但火漏到了锅里，整个房子都着火了，倾刻便化成了灰烬。 在他们以后的日子里，他们一直生活在贫穷和痛苦中，时刻受着良心的谴责。
There was once a poor shepherd-boy whose father and mother were dead, and he was placed by the authorities in the house of a rich man, who was to feed him and bring him up. The man and his wife, had however, bad hearts, and were greedy and anxious about their riches, and vexed whenever any one put a morsel of their bread in his mouth. The poor young fellow might do what he liked, he got little to eat, but only so many blows the more.
One day he had to watch a hen and her chickens, but she ran through a quick-set hedge with them, and a hawk darted down instantly, and carried her off through the air. The boy called, "Thief! thief! rascal!" with all the strength of his body. But what good did that do? The hawk did not bring its prey back again. The man heard the noise, and ran to the spot, and as soon as he saw that his hen was gone, he fell in a rage, and gave the boy such a beating that he could not stir for two days. Then he had to take care of the chickens without the hen, but now his difficulty was greater, for one ran here and the other there. He thought he was doing a very wise thing when he tied them all together with a string, because then the hawk would not be able to steal any of them away from him. But he was very much mistaken. After two days, worn out with running about and hunger, he fell asleep; the bird of prey came, and seized one of the chickens, and as the others were tied fast to it, it carried them all off together, perched itself on a tree, and devoured them. The farmer was just coming home, and when he saw the misfortune, he got angry and beat the boy so unmercifully that he was forced to lie in bed for several days.
When he was on his legs again, the farmer said to him, "Thou art too stupid for me, I cannot make a herdsman of thee, thou must go as errand-boy." Then he sent him to the judge, to whom he was to carry a basketful of grapes, and he gave him a letter as well. On the way hunger and thirst tormented the unhappy boy so violently that he ate two of the bunches of grapes. He took the basket to the judge, but when the judge had read the letter, and counted the bunches he said, "Two clusters are wanting." The boy confessed quite honestly that, driven by hunger and thirst, he had devoured the two which were wanting. The judge wrote a letter to the farmer, and asked for the same number of grapes again. These also the boy had to take to him with a letter. As he again was so extremely hungry and thirsty, he could not help it, and again ate two bunches. But first he took the letter out of the basket, put it under a stone and seated himself thereon in order that the letter might not see and betray him. The judge, however, again made him give an explanation about the missing bunches. "Ah," said the boy, "how have you learnt that?" The letter could not know about it, for I put it under a stone before I did it." The judge could not help laughing at the boy's simplicity, and sent the man a letter wherein he cautioned him to keep the poor boy better, and not let him want for meat and drink, and also that he was to teach him what was right and what was wrong.
"I will soon show thee the difference," said the hard man, "if thou wilt eat, thou must work, and if thou dost anything wrong, thou shalt be quite sufficiently taught by blows."
The next day he set him a hard task. He was to chop two bundles of straw for food for the horses, and then the man threatened: "In five hours," said he, "I shall be back again, and if the straw is not cut to chaff by that time, I will beat thee until thou canst not move a limb." The farmer went with his wife, the man-servant and the girl, to the yearly fair, and left nothing behind for the boy but a small bit of bread. The boy seated himself on the bench, and began to work with all his might. As he got warm over it he put his little coat off and threw it on the straw. In his terror lest he should not get done in time he kept constantly cutting, and in his haste, without noticing it, he chopped his little coat as well as the straw. He became aware of the misfortune too late; there was no repairing it. "Ah," cried he, "now all is over with me! The wicked man did not threaten me for nothing; if he comes back and sees what I have done, he will kill me. Rather than that I will take my own life."
The boy had once heard the farmer's wife say, "I have a pot with poison in it under my bed." She, however, had only said that to keep away greedy people, for there was honey in it. The boy crept under the bed, brought out the pot, and ate all that was in it. "I do not know," said he, "folks say death is bitter, but it tastes very sweet to me. It is no wonder that the farmer's wife has so often longed for death." He seated himself in a little chair, and was prepared to die. But instead of becoming weaker he felt himself strengthened by the nourishing food. "It cannot have been poison," thought he, "but the farmer once said there was a small bottle of poison for flies in the box in which he keeps his clothes; that, no doubt, will be the true poison, and bring death to me." It was, however, no poison for flies, but Hungarian wine. The boy got out the bottle, and emptied it. "This death tastes sweet too," said he, but shortly after when the wine began to mount into his brain and stupefy him, he thought his end was drawing near. "I feel that I must die," said he, "I will go away to the churchyard, and seek a grave." He staggered out, reached the churchyard, and laid himself in a newly dug grave. He lost his senses more and more. In the neighbourhood was an inn where a wedding was being kept; when he heard the music, he fancied he was already in Paradise, until at length he lost all consciousness. The poor boy never awoke again; the heat of the strong wine and the cold night-dew deprived him of life, and he remained in the grave in which he had laid himself.
When the farmer heard the news of the boy's death he was terrified, and afraid of being brought to justice indeed, his distress took such a powerful hold of him that he fell fainting to the ground. His wife, who was standing on the hearth with a pan of hot fat, ran to him to help him. But the flames darted against the pan, the whole house caught fire, in a few hours it lay in ashes, and the rest of the years they had to live they passed in poverty and misery, tormented by the pangs of conscience.