Tales of Old Lusitania/The Broken Egg
THE BROKEN EGG.
In a lonely part of the country there lived a man who had a daughter, and one man-servant. A gentleman from Brazil, who was travelling alone, happened to pass this man's house; he went in, and asked him to let his man-servant accompany him as far as the other side of a mountain he had to cross, because he carried much money with him, and was afraid of being robbed.
The man agreed to this, and ordered his servant to go with the gentleman. After a few hours the servant returned, and said, "Oh, master! will you give me your daughter in marriage, for I like her very much."
"I never heard of such impudence," said his master; "if I had not a friendly feeling towards you on account of your long service, I would pack you out of my house this minute, with only a loaf of bread, that you might not starve on the way."
"But listen, master; I am a rich man now, for I have murdered the Brazilian, and taken his money," replied the servant, showing him a large bag of gold.
"Oh, well, considering all things, I have no objection to giving you my daughter as wife; but you must go thrice at midnight to the place where you killed the Brazilian, and listen to what you may hear."
The young fellow went to the place, as he was told, and on his return his master asked him what he had heard.
"I heard a voice saying, 'I will be revenged, and you shall pay me for the cruel deed.'"
"Go back, then," rejoined the master, "and ask how soon you will have to pay."
The young man went back, and the voice said in reply, "In thirty years' time."
When the master heard that, he said to his servant, "As in thirty years' time I shall no longer be alive, you may marry my daughter." And so the marriage took place, as may be supposed.
When thirty years had passed, two beggar-men came to the house and asked for alms; and the girl's father, who was still alive, said, "Let them come in for the night, and have something to eat."
As they were entering the house they stumbled against a basketful of eggs, and one egg was broken. This made the father very angry; but the beggars apologised, saying, "Oh, sir, don't scold us, for we are willing to pay you for the harm we have done you, even if it should cost us money."
"It is not for the loss of the egg that I am vexed, but because while the wheel of fortune turns round it is all right, but the moment it begins to stop, it will never turn again. It is thirty years since I gave my daughter away; for thirty years I have not once given alms; and to-day is the first time since then that I have had a loss, though it is only of an egg."
The men lay down to sleep, and after a while one said to the other, "Are you asleep?"
"Nay, I have not slept a wink yet. I am thinking we had better get away from here—the sooner the better; for a house where no alms have been given, and where the people have had no loss for thirty years until to-day, some misfortune is sure to happen to it before very long."
His companion replied to this, "Where can we go now to sleep? It is too late to find any place open."
"It is no matter where we go, so long as we get away, even if we find no better shelter than a wall."
They rose up quickly, and quietly left the house, and proceeded to where there was a wall near some houses, and, crouching under it, settled themselves to sleep as well as they could. During the darkness of the night they were startled by hearing a loud crash, and one said to the other, "Did you hear that tremendous uproar?"
"I did, indeed," replied the other beggar. "You may take it for a certainty that that man's house has tumbled down about his ears."
Next morning, as soon as it was daylight, they went to see what had happened, and as they neared the spot where the house stood they found that it had disappeared altogether; not even a brick could be found, not a vestige remaining of the fine mansion. There was a great pit open in the ground, into which it had fallen, and all the inmates had been buried beneath—master, daughter, and servant!