ONCE on a time there lived three brothers, who had no property except one pear-tree. This they watched carefully, each of them in turn guarding it, whilst the other two worked for wages away from home. One day God sent an angel to see how these brothers were living; and ordered the angel, if they lived very poorly, to give them better food. When the angel came down to the earth, he changed himself into the form of a beggar; and when he saw one of the brothers watching the pear-tree, asked him to give him a pear. Then the brother plucked some pears, and gave them to the beggar, and said, 'Here, take these from my share of the pears; I cannot give you any of those which belong to my brothers.' So the angel thanked the man and went away.
Next morning the second brother remained to guard the pear-tree; and the angel came again, and begged him to give him a pear. The man took some of the pears and gave them to the angel, saying, 'Take these from my pears; but from the pears of my brothers I dare not give you any.'
The third day the third brother stayed at home to watch the pear-tree, and the angel came as before, and asked only for one pear. And this brother said also, 'Here are some of my pears; from the pears of my brothers I cannot give you any.'
The day after, the angel changed himself into a monk, and came very early, so that he found all three brothers at home, and said to them, 'Come with me; I will give you better nourishment than you have at present.'
The three brothers followed him without saying a word. At last they came to a large torrent, where the water flowed in great streams, and made a loud noise. Then the angel asked the eldest brother, 'What would you like?' And the man answered, 'I should like all this water to be changed into wine, and to belong to me.'
Then the angel made the sign of the cross in the air with his stick, and, in a moment, wine was flowing instead of water. On the banks of the river heaps of barrels were being made, and men were working very diligently--in short, there was quite a village. The angel then left the eldest brother there, saying, 'Here is all you wished! now keep yourself!' and he continued his journey with the other two brothers. Then they came to a field covered over with a multitude of doves, and the angel asked the second brother, 'What would you like?' 'I should like all these doves to be sheep, and to belong to me!' replied the man. The angel again made the sign of the cross in the air with his stick, and, instantly, sheep were there instead of doves. There were dairies also, and women milking the sheep; some were pouring out the milk, and others collecting the cream; some were making cheese, others churning butter. There was also a slaughter-house, with men cutting the meat into joints, whilst others were weighing it, and others receiving money as they sold the meat.
Then the angel said to the second brother, 'Here is what you wished for; now live.' The angel now took with him the youngest brother, walked with him across the field, and then asked, 'And what would you like?' The man answered, 'I wish for nothing, except that God may give me a wife of pure Christian blood!' Then the angel said, 'Oh, that is difficult to find! In the whole world there are but three such, and two of them are already married. The third is a maid still, but she is asked in marriage by two wooers.'
So the angel and the young man set out, and, having journeyed a long way, at length came to the city where the king dwelt whose daughter was of pure Christian blood.
As soon as they arrived, they went to the palace to ask for the girl. When they entered the palace, they found two kings already there, and their wedding gifts laid out upon a table. Then they also placed there the presents they had brought. When the king saw them, he said to all those who were standing before him, 'What shall we do now? Those are the presents of kings, but these look, in comparison, like the gifts of a beggar!' Then the angel said, 'I will tell you what to do. Let the matter be decided in this way--the maid shall take three vines, and plant them in the garden, dedicating each of them to one of the three wooers. The man on whose vine grapes are found next day is the one the girl ought to marry.' So all agreed to this, and the maid planted three vines in the garden, dedicating each of them to one of her three wooers.
The next morning, when they looked, grapes were found on the vine dedicated to the poor man. So the king could not help himself, and was obliged to give his daughter to the youngest brother, and let them at once be married in the church. After the wedding, the angel took them to a forest, and left them there, where they lived for a whole year.
At the end of a year, God again sent the angel, saying, 'Go down and see how those poor men are living. If their food be scanty, give them better nourishment.'
The angel came down to earth as before, in the likeness of a beggar, and went first to the brother who had the torrent overflowing with wine. The beggar asked for a cup of wine, but the man refused, saying, 'If I were to give every one who asks a cup of wine, I should have none for myself!' When the angel heard this, he made the sign of the cross with his stick, and the torrent began to flow with water as at first. Then the angel said to the eldest brother, 'That was not for thee! go back under the pear-tree and guard it!'
After that the angel went to the second brother who had the field quite covered with sheep, and begged him to give him a morsel of cheese; but he refused, saying, 'If I were to give every one a little bit of cheese, I should have none left!' When the angel heard this, he made the sign of the cross in the air, and the sheep turned in an instant into doves, and flew away.
Then the angel said to the second brother, 'That was not for thee! go back under the pear-tree and guard it!'
At last the angel went to see how the youngest brother was living, and found him with his wife in the forest, dwelling in a little hut, and living poorly. He begged to be allowed to sleep there that night, and they received him with great willingness, only excusing themselves that they could not serve him as they would. 'We are only poor people,' they said. The angel answered, 'Do not speak about that! I shall be quite content with what you have for yourselves.' Then these poor people asked themselves what they must do. They had no corn to make real bread; for they usually ground the bark of certain trees, and made bread from it. Such bread, therefore, the wife made now for their guest, and put it to the fire to bake. Whilst it baked, they talked with him. In a little while, when they looked to see whether the cake was baked, they found that there was a loaf of real bread quite ready for the table, and very large. When they saw that, they lifted up their hands and thanked God, saying, 'Thank thee, O God! that we are now able to give food to our guest.'
So they placed the bread before the angel, and also filled a vessel with water, and when they came to drink they found it was wine. Then the angel made a sign of the cross with his staff over the hut, and on that spot rose a royal palace, filled with abundance of everything. And the angel blessed the youngest brother and his wife, and left them, and they lived there long and very happily.