There was once a rich old man who had two sons, and as his wife was dead, the elder lived with him, and helped him to look after his property. For a long time all went well; the young man got up very early in the morning, and worked hard all day, and at the end of every week his father counted up the money they had made, and rubbed his hands with delight, as he saw how big the pile of gold in the strong iron chest was becoming. ‘It will soon be full now, and I shall have to buy a larger one,’ he said to himself, and so busy was he with the thought of his money, that he did not notice how bright his son’s face had grown, nor how he sometimes started when he was spoken to, as if his mind was far away.
One day, however, the old man went to the city on business, which he had not done for three years at least. It was market day, and he met with many people he knew, and it was getting quite late when he turned into the inn yard, and bade an ostler saddle his horse, and bring it round directly. While he was waiting in the hall, the landlady came up for a gossip, and after a few remarks about the weather and the vineyards she asked him how he liked his new daughter-in-law, and whether he had been surprised at the marriage.
The old man stared as he listened to her. ‘Daughter-in-law? Marriage?’ said he. ‘I don’t know what you are talking about! I’ve got no daughter-in-law, and nobody has been married lately, that I ever heard of.’
Now this was exactly what the landlady, who was very curious, wanted to find out; but she put on a look of great alarm, and exclaimed:
‘Oh, dear! I hope I have not made mischief. I had no idea–or, of course, I would not have spoken–but’–and here she stopped and fumbled with her apron, as if she was greatly embarrassed.
‘As you have said so much you will have to say a little more,’ retorted the old man, a suspicion of what she meant darting across him; and the woman, nothing loth, answered as before.
‘Ah, it was not all for buying or selling that your handsome son has been coming to town every week these many months past. And not by the shortest way, either! No, it was over the river he rode, and across the hill and past the cottage of Miguel the vine-keeper, whose daughter, they say, is the prettiest girl in the whole country side, though she is too white for my taste,’ and then the landlady paused again, and glanced up at the farmer, to see how he was taking it. She did not learn much. He was looking straight before him, his teeth set. But as she ceased to talk, he said quietly, ‘Go on.’
‘There is not much more to tell,’ replied the landlady, for she suddenly remembered that she must prepare supper for the hungry men who always stopped at the inn on market days, before starting for home, ‘but one fine morning they both went to the little church on top of the hill, and were married. My cousin is servant to the priest, and she found out about it and told me. But good- day to you, sir; here is your horse, and I must hurry off to the kitchen.’
It was lucky that the horse was sure-footed and knew the road, for his bridle hung loose on his neck, and his master took no heed of the way he was going. When the farm-house was reached, the man led the animal to the stable, and then went to look for his son.
‘I know everything–you have deceived me. Get out of my sight at once–I have done with you,’ he stammered, choking with passion as he came up to the young man, who was cutting a stick in front of the door, whistling gaily the while.