THERE was once a man who lived very gaily, without thinking of the morrow; and what with eating, drinking, and never working, he soon found himself without house and with scarcely enough money left to get food for one day in the thirty. At last his spirits were so broken that he could not go home to the reproaches of his wife and children, but went to a neighbour’s and borrowed a rope to hang himself with. He then went into a field and fastened the rope to an olive-tree; but just as he was about to put it round his neck a little fairy, dressed like a friar, appeared and said to him,—
“Man, what are you going to do?”
“To hang myself, sir; can’t you see that?”
“Are you a Christian, and going to do what Judas did? Go away, and do better! Take this purse, which can never be emptied, and help yourself from it”
Uncle Curro, for so was our hero commonly called, took the purse and pulled out a dollar, and then another, and another, and saw that the purse was like the mouths of women, which give forth words and words, and yet are never exhausted. He saw this, so untied the rope and took the road home. On the way he saw a public-house, which he entered, and began to eat and drink as much as he could, paying for it as he had it, to try his skill with the purse, and because the landlord did not care to give trust to so large a consumer. He ate so much and drank so much, that he soon fell under the table, and slept as soundly as the dead in the churchyard.
The landlord, who had noticed that the purse whence his customer drew his money never became empty, told his wife to make one like it. When this was done, he stole Uncle, Curro's and replaced it by the one his wife had made.
When Uncle Curro woke up, he resumed his way home, where he arrived as jolly as a sunny day.
“Rejoice!” he cried to his wife and children. “Here is enough money to put an end to all our troubles!” and he put his hand into the purse and drew it out empty. He put it in again, but there was nothing to take out. When his wife saw this, she got in such a passion, that she added another blow to the large stock she had already given him.
More desperate than ever, he seized the rope and again went off to hang himself. Once more he arrived at the same spot, and fastened the rope to a branch of the olive-tree.
“What are you going to do, Christian?” said the voice of the little fairy, who again appeared to him.
“To hang myself up like a string of onions from the kitchen roof,” responded Uncle Curro, quite beside himself.
“What makes you lose patience again?” said the fairy.
“Sir, I have not got anything to eat.”
“You are very culpable; but—I’ll try you again. Take this cloak, and with that you will never be in want of food.” The fairy gave him the cloak and then disappeared.
Uncle Curro then extended the cloak on the ground; and no sooner had he done so than it was covered with all kinds of food, cooked in a manner that would have done credit to the king’s kitchen. When our hero had eaten until he could eat no more, he folded up the cloak and started off homewards. On reaching the public-house he felt tired and lay down there to sleep. The landlord remembered him, and at once suspected that he had something valuable with him; and his worldly knowledge directing him to the cloak, he stole it away and put another in its. place.
When Uncle Curro got home he called his wife and children to come and eat, saying that this time they should eat to their heart’s content. He then unfolded the cloak, but instead of victuals, he saw it covered with patches of all sizes and all colours.
Alas for him! Mother and children both fell upon him and gave him no mercy. He seized the rope and went off to hang himself once more.
And, as it had happened before, the fairy appeared, and this time gave him a cudgel, assuring him that with it he could make everybody leave him in peace, and that he would only have to say, “Cudgel, beat them,” in order to put any one to flight, and that he would then be left quite unmolested.
Our hero seized the cudgel and took his way home, grand as a magistrate with his wand of office. He soon saw his wife and children coming towards him, and shouting all kinds of insults and outrages at him. Then he said, “Cudgel, beat them,” and scarcely had the words been spoken, than the cudgel began to bestow some hearty whacks on the lads; their mother hastened to their aid, when Uncle Curro exclaimed, “At her, cudgel, and let her have it,” and such a vigorous drubbing did she get from the cudgel that she was killed.
Justice was invoked, and the magistrate presented himself with his officers.
“Cudgel, beat them,” said Uncle Curro as soon as he saw them; and the cudgel distributed such blows amongst them that each one equalled a thunderbolt. The magistrate was killed, and the officers took to their heels in such a fright that they scarcely touched the ground as they scampered away.
Then the king was informed of what had taken place, and he ordered a regiment of grenadiers to go and seize Uncle Curro and his cudgel. No sooner did he see them coming than he said, “Cudgel, beat them,” and it darted into the midst of the ranks. It began banging the heads of the grenadiers with a roar like that of a watermill; one lost an arm, another a leg, and the colonel an eye; so, to finish matters quickly, the grenadiers all seized their muskets and knapsacks, and marched home double quick, believing that the Evil One himself was after them.
Free from care, Uncle Curro went to sleep, putting his cudgel in his bosom so that no one should steal it. Whilst he slept they bound him hand and foot and carried him to prison, where he was tried and sentenced to death. The following day he was taken from his cell; and then he was taken on to the scaffold, where they untied his hands. Then he drew out his cudgel and cried to it, “Cudgel, beat them,” and it played such havoc there that many were left for dead by the blows.
“We must provide for this man,” said the king, “otherwise he will finish off all my subjects; tell him that I will give him a very large estate in America.”
This was done. His majesty gave him an estate in Cuba, where he built a city, and in this city Uncle Curro caused so many deaths with his cudgel that it received the name of Matanzas (slaughter).