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The grave-mound


一天,富农站在院子里察看他的田地和园子。 麦子长得正旺,果树也压弯了腰。 去年的粮食还囤积在楼上呢,屋梁都快压塌了。 随后富农又走进了马厩,这里喂着的公牛和奶牛膘肥体壮,还有一匹浑身上下刷得干干净净的骏马。 最后富农回到了厅里,眼光又落向了装满金子的铁钱箱。
他这样站在那里,估量着自己的财产,突然离他不远的地方传来了敲门声,敲的不是房间的门,而是他心灵的大门。 门开了,他听到有个声音对他说:"你可曾给家人做过好事?你考虑过穷人的困苦吗?你把自己的饭分给过饥饿的人们吗?你觉得满足了吗?或者你还想要更多些?"他的心不甘示弱,马上了作出反应:"我向来是铁石心肠、冷酷无情,我从不给家人好脸色看,如有乞丐上门,我可不正眼瞧他一眼;我也不信上帝,想的只是如何得到更多财富。即使天底下的一切都是我的,我也不嫌多。"
富翁听到这话,着实吃了一惊,他的双腿开始颤抖了,他只得坐下来。
那时又传来了敲门声,不过这次却是敲在房间的门上。 门外站着他的邻居,一个穷人,他膝下儿女成堆,连糊口也成问题。 "我也知道我的邻居很富有 ,而且同样也无情;我不信他会接济我,可我的孩子们正哭着要东西吃,我只有豁出去了,来求他帮点忙。 "可怜的农夫心里这样嘀咕着说,"你是不会轻易把东西施舍给人的,可是你看我站在这儿,像大水已淹过了头顶的人,我的孩子们正饿得慌,看在他们的份上,就借我四升谷吧! "富翁久久地盯着他,心中露出了些许怜悯之光,那贪婪之冰开始融化了一点点。"我不会借给你四升谷的,"富翁笑道,"可我愿意送你八升谷,但你必须答应我一个条件。 ""要我做什么? "农夫急切地问。"我要是死了,你得在我墓前为我守三天灵。 "农夫听到这要求,心一下就乱了,但因急需接济,就是任何事情他也会答应,于是他答应了对方的请求,背着谷子回家了。
富翁似乎预感到会有什么事要发生,三天过后,他突然倒在地上死了。 没人知道究竟是怎么回事,但也无人为他的死感到悲痛和伤心。 富翁下葬时,农夫想起了自己许过的诺言,这下他可以从中摆脱出来了,他觉得高兴,可他心想:"毕竟他还待我好过,我也曾用他给的谷子养活过我的孩子。即使不是这样,一旦许下诺言,就得履行。"夜幕降临时,农夫走进了墓地,在富翁的墓前坐了下来。 外边是那样的万籁俱寂,只有月光轻泄在坟头上,不时也有一只猫头鹰飞过,发出悲哀的叫声。 太阳升起后,穷人平安无恙地回到了家。 第二天晚上,一切都如昨天一般。 可到了第三天晚上,农夫感到特别不自在,总觉得有什么事要发生,他于是走到了墓地的院墙外,看到一个自己从未见过的人。 他年纪已不小,脸上有疤,他的眼睛急切地四处扫射,锐利无比;他身上披着件旧罩衫,只露出两只大马靴。 "你在找什么?"农夫问道:"难道你在这寂寞的坟地不害怕吗?""我啥也不怕!"那人答道,"我啥都不怕!我就同那位外出学发抖的年轻人一样,一切只是徒劳,不过他最后还是娶了公主为妻,还得到了大量的财宝,而我却老是受穷。我是个退役兵,今晚我打算就在这儿过,何况我也找不到其它地方可去。""如果你不害怕的话,就陪陪我,帮我一起守那坟吧!"农夫答道。
"站岗是当兵的事,"他答道,"不管今晚我们在这儿遇到什么好歹,我们都得共同承担。"农夫很赞同他,就和他一起在坟头坐下。
前半夜,一切都平安无事。 到了后半夜,空中突然传来了一阵尖锐的呼啸声,两个守卫者竟发现魔鬼就站在他们面前。 "滚开,你们这两个坏蛋!"魔王对他们大喊:"躺在这墓里的人是我的 ,我要带他走。 如果你们不赶紧滚蛋的话,我就拧断你们的脖子! ""红发老魔,"士兵说,"你又不是我的上司,我可没有必要听你的指挥,况且我也没学会什么是害怕。 快滚吧! 我们要坐在这儿。 "
魔鬼心想:"我最好用钱来让这两个流浪汉离开。"于是他就换上了柔和的语调,十分和善地问他们是否乐意接受一袋金币,带着回家。 "这听起来还可以,"士兵答道,"但一袋金币还不够,如果你能够给我们些金币,用我一只靴子能装满,我们就立即把这块地方让给你。"
"我身上可没带那么多金币,"魔鬼说,"但我会去取的。就在附近城里住着我的一位好朋友,他是个钱商,他会乐意帮我垫足这个数的。"说完魔鬼就消失了,士兵脱下他左脚的靴子说:"我们很快会让他碰一鼻子灰的。伙计,快把你的刀子给我用一下。"他拿刀把靴底割掉,把靴子放在一个小洞里,草丛正好遮掉了一半,然后说:"这会有用的,不久那黑鬼就会来。"
于是他们坐在那里等着。 没过多久,魔鬼就回来了,手提着一袋金子。 "就倒在这里吧!"士兵说着,把靴子稍稍提起了一点,"但这还不够。"
魔鬼把口袋抖了抖,金币全落进了靴子里,可是靴子仍不见满。 "混蛋,你这没用的!我刚才没说过吗?回去再拿些来。"士兵大声骂着。 魔鬼摇了摇头,无可奈何地走了。 不到一个小时的工夫魔鬼就回来了,这次他拎来个更大的口袋。 "只管倒吧!"士兵对魔鬼喊道,"但我怀疑靴子还是装不满。"金币叮噹噹地掉进靴子,但靴子一点也不见满。 只见魔鬼怒火中烧,满眼通红,竭力想使自己相信眼前的一切。 "你的小腿比大腿都粗,真难看!"他歪着个脸喊道。 "你以为我也和你一样生着个蹄脚吗?你是什么时候变得这样小气的?去多拿些金子来,否则我们这笔生意就拉倒。"魔鬼只得再打转,这次他也去得久些。 当他最后出现时,他已被肩上的一袋金币累得气喘嘘嘘。 他再次把金币倒进靴子里,可是靴子还是和刚才一样。 这下魔鬼可大发雷霆了,他伸手就要从士兵手上抢过靴子,把它撕成碎片。 可就在这时,早上第一道霞光穿过云层,照在了魔鬼身上,只见魔鬼狂呼大叫着逃跑了,墓中的那个可怜的灵魂也幸免于难。
农夫要平分金币,士兵却说:"把我的一份分给穷人吧!我要搬到你的小屋去,我们就用剩下的东西过安静平和的日子,直到最后上帝召唤我们。"
A rich farmer was one day standing in his yard inspecting his fields and gardens. The corn was growing up vigorously and the fruit-trees were heavily laden with fruit. The grain of the year before still lay in such immense heaps on the floors that the rafters could hardly bear it. Then he went into the stable, where were well-fed oxen, fat cows, and horses bright as looking-glass. At length he went back into his sitting-room, and cast a glance at the iron chest in which his money lay.
Whilst he was thus standing surveying his riches, all at once there was a loud knock close by him. The knock was not at the door of his room, but at the door of his heart. It opened, and he heard a voice which said to him, "Hast thou done good to thy family with it? Hast thou considered the necessities of the poor? Hast thou shared thy bread with the hungry? Hast thou been contented with what thou hast, or didst thou always desire to have more?" The heart was not slow in answering, "I have been hard and pitiless, and have never shown any kindness to my own family. If a beggar came, I turned away my eyes from him. I have not troubled myself about God, but have thought only of increasing my wealth. If everything which the sky covers had been mine own, I should still not have had enough."

When he was aware of this answer he was greatly alarmed, his knees began to tremble, and he was forced to sit down.

Then there was another knock, but the knock was at the door of his room. It was his neighbour, a poor man who had a number of children whom he could no longer satisfy with food. "I know," thought the poor man, "that my neighbour is rich, but he is as hard as he is rich. I don't believe he will help me, but my children are crying for bread, so I will venture it." He said to the rich man, "You do not readily give away anything that is yours, but I stand here like one who feels the water rising above his head. My children are starving, lend me four measures* of corn." The rich man looked at him long, and then the first sunbeam of mercy began to melt away a drop of the ice of greediness. "I will not lend thee four measures," he answered, "but I will make thee a present of eight, but thou must fulfil one condition." - "What am I to do?" said the poor man. "When I am dead, thou shalt watch for three nights by my grave." The peasant was disturbed in his mind at this request, but in the need in which he was, he would have consented to anything; he accepted, therefore, and carried the corn home with him.

It seemed as if the rich man had foreseen what was about to happen, for when three days were gone by, he suddenly dropped down dead. No one knew exactly how it came to pass, but no one grieved for him. When he was buried, the poor man remembered his promise; he would willingly have been released from it, but he thought, "After all, he acted kindly by me. I have fed my hungry children with his corn, and even if that were not the case, where I have once given my promise I must keep it." At nightfall he went into the churchyard, and seated himself on the grave-mound. Everything was quiet, only the moon appeared above the grave, and frequently an owl flew past and uttered her melancholy cry. When the sun rose, the poor man betook himself in safety to his home, and in the same manner the second night passed quietly by. On the evening of the third day he felt a strange uneasiness, it seemed to him that something was about to happen. When he went out he saw, by the churchyard-wall, a man whom he had never seen before. He was no longer young, had scars on his face, and his eyes looked sharply and eagerly around. He was entirely covered with an old cloak, and nothing was visible but his great riding-boots. "What are you looking for here?" the peasant asked. "Are you not afraid of the lonely churchyard?"

"I am looking for nothing," he answered, "and I am afraid of nothing! I am like the youngster who went forth to learn how to shiver, and had his labour for his pains, but got the King's daughter to wife and great wealth with her, only I have remained poor. I am nothing but a paid-off soldier, and I mean to pass the night here, because I have no other shelter." - "If you are without fear," said the peasant, "stay with me, and help me to watch that grave there."

"To keep watch is a soldier's business," he replied, "whatever we fall in with here, whether it be good or bad, we will share it between us." The peasant agreed to this, and they seated themselves on the grave together.

All was quiet until midnight, when suddenly a shrill whistling was heard in the air, and the two watchers perceived the Evil One standing bodily before them. "Be off, you ragamuffins!" cried he to them, "the man who lies in that grave belongs to me; I want to take him, and if you don't go away I will wring your necks!" - "Sir with the red feather,"* said the soldier, "you are not my captain, I have no need to obey you, and I have not yet learned how to fear. Go away, we shall stay sitting here."

The Devil thought to himself, "Money is the best thing with which to get hold of these two vagabonds." So he began to play a softer tune, and asked quite kindly, if they would not accept a bag of money, and go home with it? "That is worth listening to," answered the soldier, "but one bag of gold won't serve us, if you will give as much as will go into one of my boots, we will quit the field for you and go away."

"I have not so much as that about me," said the Devil, "but I will fetch it. In the neighbouring town lives a money-changer who is a good friend of mine, and will readily advance it to me." When the Devil had vanished the soldier took his left boot off, and said, "We will soon pull the charcoal-burner's nose for him, just give me your knife, comrade." He cut the sole off the boot, and put it in the high grass near the grave on the edge of a hole that was half over-grown. "That will do," said he; "now the chimney-sweep may come.

They both sat down and waited, and it was not long before the Devil returned with a small bag of gold in his hand. "Just pour it in," said the soldier, raising up the boot a little, "but that won't be enough."

The Black One shook out all that was in the bag; the gold fell through, and the boot remained empty. "Stupid Devil," cried the soldier, "it won't do! Didn't I say so at once? Go back again, and bring more." The Devil shook his head, went, and in an hour's time came with a much larger bag under his arm. "Now pour it in," cried the soldier, "but I doubt the boot won't be full." The gold clinked as it fell, but the boot remained empty. The Devil looked in himself with his burning eyes, and convinced himself of the truth. "You have shamefully big calves to your legs!" cried he, and made a wry face. "Did you think," replied the soldier, "that I had a cloven foot like you? Since when have you been so stingy? See that you get more gold together, or our bargain will come to nothing!" The Wicked One went off again. This time he stayed away longer, and when at length he appeared he was panting under the weight of a sack which lay on his shoulders. He emptied it into the boot, which was just as far from being filled as before. He became furious, and was just going to tear the boot out of the soldier's hands, but at that moment the first ray of the rising sun broke forth from the sky, and the Evil Spirit fled away with loud shrieks. The poor soul was saved.

The peasant wished to divide the gold, but the soldier said, "Give what falls to my lot to the poor, I will come with thee to thy cottage, and together we will live in rest and peace on what remains, as long as God is pleased to permit."




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