从前有个隐士，居住在山脚下的一片森林里，成天在祈祷和行善中度时光。 为了敬奉上帝，每天晚上他都要扛两担水上山。 山上风紧，非常缺水，即使是那些怕人的野鸟也会在空中盘旋，用它们那锐利的眼睛来寻找饮料，众动物和植物由此而得到了滋补和浇灌。 由于这隐士是那样的虔诚，上帝的一个天使现身了，每天跟这隐士上山去，数着他的步子，等他完工后，天使便给他东西吃，好像那旧时的预言家按上帝的旨意由乌鸦来供食一样。 这隐士始终是那样的虔诚，最后他年老了。 一次他远远地瞧见了一个可怜的罪犯被带上绞架，只听他喃喃自语道："那人是罪有应得！"就在那天晚上，当他担水上山时，经常伴随他的天使不见了，后来也没给他送来食物。 他害怕了，连忙反省自己，心想自己准是犯了罪，触奴了上帝，但左思右想都不知道那儿犯了罪。 于是他不吃不喝，躺在地上，日夜祈祷。 一天，他又在森林里悲痛地哭泣，他听到了一只小鸟在尽情的歌唱，声音是那样的甜美，他的心情顿时更加忧伤了，说："瞧你唱得多高兴，上帝没有生你的气，唉！你要是能告诉我我怎么得罪了他，我也好赎罪，那样我的心才会快活起来。"只听鸟儿发话了，"你做了不义之事，你诅咒了一个被带上绞架的罪犯，因此上帝动怒了，只有他才有裁判权啊！不过只要你悔罪改过，上帝会饶恕你的。"这时天使又出现在他身边，手拿一根干树枝，说："你应该带着这根树枝，直到上面发出三颗绿色的新芽来；不过晚上睡觉时，你得把它放在枕头下。你还得挨家挨户地去讨你的面包，不能在同一所屋子里留宿超过一夜。这就是上帝对你的惩罚。"
隐士接过了树枝，回到了他久别的尘世。 他吃的喝的只是人家门口得到的施舍。 但是许多人家都不理他的乞讨，有些人家干脆不开门，因而他有时连一点面包也得不到。 有一天，他又挨家挨户去乞讨，可从早到晚没有一家给过他东西，没有一户愿意留他过夜，最后他走进了一片森林，发现了一个人造的洞，洞内正坐着个老婆婆。 于是他说："好心的老婆婆，让我在您家住一晚吧！"只听老人回答："不行，既使我愿意我也不敢，我有三个儿子，他们又野蛮又狠毒，他们现在出去抢劫去了，等他们回来发现你在这儿，我们俩就完了。"隐士说："让我留下来吧！他们不致于害你和我的。"老婆婆菩萨心肠，被他说动了心。 进去后隐士就在楼梯下躺下了，头下枕着这树枝。 老人见此情形就问他原因，他告诉了她自己为悔罪得带着这根树枝四处流浪，晚上还要拿它做枕头，并说曾见到一个可怜的罪犯被带上绞架，自己却说他是罪有应得，于是触怒了上帝。 老人听完就哭了起来，只听她说："如果上帝仅为说错一句话就惩罚你，那我那些儿子在接受上帝审判时，又该是什么下场呢？"
半夜了，强盗大吵大嚷着回家了。 他们点上了火，洞内立刻明亮了，他们正巧发现楼梯下躺着个人，便勃然大怒，冲着他们的母亲嚷嚷："这家伙是谁？我们不是禁止收留任何人吗？"只听母亲说："别动他，他是个可怜的人，正在赎他的罪呢！"强盗们齐声问："他干了什么啦？""老家伙，"他们吼道，"给我们讲讲你的罪过。"于是老人爬了起来，原原本本告诉了他们自己怎样因一句话而触怒了上帝，现在他又得怎样来悔罪。 他的这番话可把强盗们深深地打动了，他们对自己干过的一切感到了害怕，开始仔细反省，诚心悔悟，决心改过。 隐士使这三个人悔悟后，又回到楼梯下躺下了。 第二天早上，他们发现他已经死了，就在他头下枕着的干枝上，高高地长出了三根绿色的嫩枝。 原来上帝又发了慈悲，把他收上了天堂。
There was once on a time a hermit who lived in a forest at the foot of a mountain, and passed his time in prayer and good works, and every evening he carried, to the glory of God, two pails of water up the mountain. Many a beast drank of it, and many a plant was refreshed by it, for on the heights above, a strong wind blew continually, which dried the air and the ground, and the wild birds which dread mankind wheel about there, and with their sharp eyes search for a drink. And because the hermit was so pious, an angel of God, visible to his eyes, went up with him, counted his steps, and when the work was completed, brought him his food, even as the prophet of old was by God's command fed by the raven. When the hermit in his piety had already reached a great age, it happened that he once saw from afar a poor sinner being taken to the gallows. He said carelessly to himself, "There, that one is getting his deserts!" In the evening, when he was carrying the water up the mountain, the angel who usually accompanied him did not appear, and also brought him no food. Then he was terrified, and searched his heart, and tried to think how he could have sinned, as God was so angry, but he did not discover it. Then he neither ate nor drank, threw himself down on the ground, and prayed day and night. And as he was one day thus bitterly weeping in the forest, he heard a little bird singing beautifully and delightfully, and then he was still more troubled and said, "How joyously thou singest, the Lord is not angry with thee. Ah, if thou couldst but tell me how I can have offended him, that I might do penance, and then my heart also would be glad again." Then the bird began to speak and said, "Thou hast done injustice, in that thou hast condemned a poor sinner who was being led to the gallows, and for that the Lord is angry with thee. He alone sits in judgement. However, if thou wilt do penance and repent thy sins, he will forgive thee." Then the angel stood beside him with a dry branch in his hand and said, "Thou shalt carry this dry branch until three green twigs sprout out of it, but at night when thou wilt sleep, thou shalt lay it under thy head. Thou shalt beg thy bread from door to door, and not tarry more than one night in the same house. That is the penance which the Lord lays on thee."
Then the hermit took the piece of wood, and went back into the world, which he had not seen for so long. He ate and drank nothing but what was given him at the doors; many petitions were, however, not listened to, and many doors remained shut to him, so that he often did not get a crumb of bread.
Once when he had gone from door to door from morning till night, and no one had given him anything, and no one would shelter him for the night, he went forth into a forest, and at last found a cave which someone had made, and an old woman was sitting in it. Then said he, "Good woman, keep me with you in your house for this night;" but she said, "No, I dare not, even if I wished, I have three sons who are wicked and wild, if they come home from their robbing expedition, and find you, they would kill us both." The hermit said, "Let me stay, they will do no injury either to you or to me." and the woman was compassionate, and let herself be persuaded. Then the man lay down beneath the stairs, and put the bit of wood under his head. When the old woman saw him do that, she asked the reason of it, on which he told her that he carried the bit of wood about with him for a penance, and used it at night for a pillow, and that he had offended the Lord, because, when he had seen a poor sinner on the way to the gallows, he had said he was getting his deserts. Then the woman began to weep and cried, "If the Lord thus punishes one single word, how will it fare with my sons when they appear before him in judgment?"
At midnight the robbers came home and blustered and stormed. They made a fire, and when it had lighted up the cave and they saw a man lying under the stairs, they fell in a rage and cried to their mother, "Who is the man? Have we not forbidden any one whatsoever to be taken in?" Then said the mother, "Let him alone, it is a poor sinner who is expiating his crime." The robbers asked, "What has he done?" - "Old man," cried they, "tell us thy sins." The old man raised himself and told them how he, by one single word, had so sinned that God was angry with him, and how he was now expiating this crime. The robbers were so powerfully touched in their hearts by this story, that they were shocked with their life up to this time, reflected, and began with hearty repentance to do penance for it. The hermit, after he had converted the three sinners, lay down to sleep again under the stairs. In the morning, however, they found him dead, and out of the dry wood on which his head lay, three green twigs had grown up on high. Thus the Lord had once more received him into his favour.