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THERE were once a man and his wife who were so poor that they scarcely knew from one time to another whether they would have enough to eat.
One day the man found a starving dog near the house and brought it home with him. “Look!” said he to his wife. “Here is one even more unfortunate than ourselves. See whether you cannot find something in the house for it to eat, for unless you do it will surely die.”
The woman hunted about and found a handful of rice, which she cooked and gave to the dog. After it had eaten it grew stronger, and began to play about and show such pretty tricks that the poor couple were delighted with it.
After this it lived with them in the house and they became very fond of it. What little they had they shared with it, and it grew strong and glossy.
One day the poor couple went out to walk in the garden, and the dog, as usual, followed close to them. When they came to a certain corner, however, it left them and began to scratch at the ground and bark.
“Look!” cried the woman. “Something must certainly be buried there. I wonder what it can be?”
The man called the dog, but it would not leave the corner, and only looked at him and barked again.
“Something must indeed be there,” said the man to his wife. “I will run to our neighbor’s house and borrow a spade, and dig down until I find what it is.”
So saying he hurried away to the neighbor’s, and asked him to lend him a spade.
“What do you wish to do with it?” asked the neighbor, who was a very inquisitive man.
“I wish to dig in a corner of my garden, for I think my dog has found something there.”
The neighbor lent him the spade, and himself went over to the garden to see whether the good man would find anything.
When the dog saw his master return and make ready to dig, he stood aside, wagging his tail with joy.
The man had not dug far when his spade struck something hard, and this, when it was uncovered, proved to be a chest of gold. The good couple were overcome with joy at the sight of such a treasure. They almost lost their senses, and even embraced the dog in their delight.
So happy were they that they did not notice that the neighbor had turned green with envy. “That is a valuable dog,” he said to them at last. “What will you sell him for?”
“Sell him!” cried the good man. “There is not enough gold in all the world to buy him. The only good fortune that has ever come to us has come through him.”
“Then at least lend him to me,” said the neighbor. “Surely you would not keep all the good fortune to yourselves. It may be that he will find a chest of gold for me in my garden.”
The good people were willing to do this, so the envious neighbor fastened a piece of rope about the dog’s neck and led him home with him, and he and his wife took the dog out in the garden and walked up and down and around with him just as the good couple had done. They were obliged to keep the rope about the dog’s neck and drag him along, for they had so often before this thrown hard words and harder stones at him that he would not go with them willingly. But though he was obliged to follow because of the rope he would not bark nor even sniff about, and at last the envious neighbor grew so angry that he killed the dog and buried it under a plane tree in the garden.
The good man waited and waited for the neighbor to bring back the dog, but as he did not do so he went over after a few days to ask for it.
Then the envious neighbor told him he had killed it and buried it under the plane tree.
The good man was filled with grief when he heard that his dog was dead. Sadly he returned to his wife and told her what had happened, and they sat down and wept together as though indeed it had been a child that had died.
But that night the man had a wonderful dream, and his wife also dreamed, and the dreams were exactly the same. In the dreams the dog appeared to them, and said, “Go; ask the neighbor to give you the plane tree beneath which I am buried and make of it a mortar and pestle, and whatever you grind with them shall be changed to gold.”
When the good couple awoke they began each one to tell the other of the dream, and they were filled with wonder to find that their dreams were both the same. “This is very wonderful,” said the man, “and I am sure they must be true dreams, or the dog would not have appeared to us both.”
So as soon as he arose he went over to the neighbor’s and begged and entreated him to give him the plane tree. The envious man refused, but after a time he agreed to sell it to the good man for ten pieces of gold.
The man paid him, and then cut down the plane tree and dragged it home, and made of it a mortar and pestle.
As soon as this was done he put a handful of rice in the mortar and began to grind it, and under the pestle all the rice was changed to gold. Now the good people were rich indeed. They could grind out gold at any time until their arms grew tired. They bought fine clothes, and good things to eat and everything their hearts could desire.
It was not long before the news of all this came to the ears of the envious neighbor. He went over to the house of the good man and began to rage and storm at him. “This is a pretty way to treat me!” he cried. “You come to me and beg for my plane tree and because of my good heart I cannot refuse you, and you only pay me ten pieces of gold for what is worth more than a thousand. At least lend the mortar and pestle to me for a day, that I may grind out some money, too.”
The good man was willing to do this, so he lent the mortar and pestle to the envious neighbor who carried them away with him.
As soon as he reached home he put a handful of rice into the mortar and began to grind it, but when he and his wife looked, it had all turned into ill-smelling filth. The envious man was beside himself with rage, and taking an ax he chopped the mortar and pestle into pieces, and threw them into the fire.
The good man waited and waited in vain for his neighbor to return the mortar, and at last went over to ask for it.
“I have burned it,” said the envious man. “It only filled the house with filth, and at any rate it was made of my plane tree and I had a right to do with it as I wished.”
The good man returned to his wife very sorrowful, for lost now was all further hope of riches. But that night the couple again dreamed. In their dreams the dog appeared to them and told them the man must go to the neighbor and ask him for the ashes of the mortar and pestle. “Take a handful of these ashes, and fling them over any tree,” said the dog, “and even although it is dead, and has been dead many years, it will burst into bloom.”
The next morning the man arose in haste, and went over to the neighbor’s house, and begged him to give him the ashes of the mortar and pestle.
“There they are,” said the envious man contemptuously. “You may gather them up if you choose, and much good may they do you.”
The good man gathered them up very carefully, and carried them home. To test them he took up a handful and flung it over a withered branch in his garden. Immediately the branch burst forth into bloom; the whole garden was filled with the perfume of the flowers.
The man then put the ashes in a bag and started out with them; he went about through the country throwing handfuls of ashes over dead trees and bringing them to life, and in this way he earned a great deal of money.
At last the prince of the country heard of all this, and sent for the man to come to the palace, and began to question him. “Is it true,” he asked, “that you can bring dead trees to life and make them blossom, as I have heard?”
“That is indeed no more than the truth,” answered the man.
“It is a thing I should greatly like to see,” said the prince. “I have in my garden a tree that has lately died, from what cause I do not know. If you can do as you say and cause it to break forth into blossom I will reward you well, but if you fail, you shall be punished as a boaster and a cheat.”
The man was then taken into a magnificent garden, and the prince and his suite went with him to witness the spectacle. The man was shown the tree, and the branches were indeed as dry and lifeless as though they had been of stone. The man climbed up it, and when he had gone as high as he could he opened his bag and took out a handful of ashes and scattered them around. Almost immediately small buds appeared on the branches; they grew and swelled and then burst forth into rosy bloom. So heavy were the clusters of blossoms that the man in the tree was quite hidden by them.
The prince was filled with admiration, and so much pleased that he gave the man a bag of gold, and praised him beyond measure.
Now when the neighbor heard of the fresh good fortune that had befallen the other, he was more envious than ever. He sent word to the prince that he, too, could cause dead trees to blossom, and at that the prince bade the envious neighbor come to the palace. He hoped to see again as fine a sight as the good man had shown him.
The prince and all his suite as before accompanied the envious man to a garden where there was another dead tree. The envious man had his bag of ashes with him, and he climbed up among the branches and settled himself in a crotch. The prince and his attendants stood below, all looking up at him with open eyes and mouths.
The envious man took out a double handful and scattered them around. They blew down into the eyes and mouths of the prince and his suite, blinding them and choking them, but the tree remained as dead and bare as ever.
The prince was so angry that, as soon as he had recovered from the ashes, he had the envious man taken away and punished. But he sent for the good man and raised him to riches and honor, so that he and his wife lived happy forever after.