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ONCE there were two brothers. They were lazy fellows, and thieves into the bargain. They were expected to give a feast. They said to one another: "We haven't got anything. Wherever shall we find food for the feast?"
So the first said: "I'll go to our neighbour's. He has some fine apples, and I'll pluck some of them."
The second said: "I'll go to the shepherd's. He has some fine rams. I'll steal a ram from him."
These two brothers hated the third, and so they abused him: "Silly Jura! You won't get anything yourself, but you'll be ready enough to eat what we get."
So Jura said: "I'll go to the burgomaster's and get some nuts."
In the evening they went their ways. When he had finished plucking the nuts,
[paragraph continues] Jura went into the charnel-house at the back of the church and began to crack the nuts there. The watchmen heard the cracking in the charnel-house, and they thought the place was haunted. As there was no priest in the village (he lived in the next village), they went to the burgomaster and asked him to go with them to the charnel-house, saying that the place was haunted.
The burgomaster said: "I am so ill that I can't stand on my feet; no doctor can help me."
But the watchmen insisted, and so the burgomaster told his servant to take him on his back and carry him to the place. The servant carried him along, and the watchmen called at the churchwarden's to ask for some holy water.
When they came near to the charnel-house, Jura thought it was his brother bringing the ram, so he called out: "Are you bringing him?"
The servant was frightened, and let the burgomaster fall and ran away. The burgomaster was terrified too. He jumped up and ran after the servant. He cleared a wooden fence with one leap in his flight, and it
wasn't long till he reached home. His family wondered to see him cured so quickly without the help of a doctor.
Next day the burgomaster proclaimed that he would give a pound to the man who had stolen his nuts the day before, if he would only come to see him. So Jura went to him, and the burgomaster said: "I ought to punish you for stealing, but since you have cured my illness which nobody was able to cure, I'll give you the pound I promised, but you mustn't steal any more." So Jura promised not to steal any more, and went home.
The brothers grew very fond of him now that he had money. They borrowed the money from him and bought themselves new clothes, and said: "We'll go to see the world and to get wives for ourselves. As for you, Silly Jura, you must stay at home; you'd never get a good wife for yourself."
So off they went. But Jura went too. He went to the forest and he was utterly dazzled. He had often heard that there was an enchanted castle in that forest. When he came to the place where the ruins of the castle were, night overtook him, and so he
could see nothing except what looked like a light in a cellar. So he went into the cellar to make his night's lodging there. There was nobody in the cellar but a cat. The cat greeted him: "Welcome, dear Jura! How did you come here?"
Jura was frightened when he heard the cat speak, and was going to run away. But the cat told him not to go; there was no need to be frightened. He must come back, and no harm would be done to him. If he wanted to eat, he could go into the storeroom and take what he wanted. She would take him for her servant.
So he stayed there a year and had a good time. He never saw a cook, but he always found meals ready prepared in the storeroom. He had nothing to do but get firewood, and at the end of the year he was told to make a great pile of it. Then the cat said: "You must light the pile to-day, and throw me into the fire. You must not help me out, however I entreat you, but you must let me be consumed."
Jura answered: "I can't do that. I have had a good time with you. Why should I repay you in such an evil way?"
The cat said: "If you don't do as I have said, you will be very unhappy. If you do it, you will be happy."
So Jura kindled the pile, and, when it was well alight, he picked up the cat and threw her into the fire. She wanted to escape from the fire, but he wouldn't let her go. At last he was so weary that he was forced to lie down, and soon he fell asleep. When he awoke, he opened his eyes, and behold! there was no ruin; he heard delightful music and saw a beautiful palace with crowds of servants. He was wondering at all this, when a splendidly dressed lady came up to him and asked him if he did not know her.
Jura said: "How should I know your ladyship? I never saw you before in my life."
The lady said: "I am that cat. Witches had put me under enchantment in the shape of a cat. Now we will go after your brothers who hated you so much and see how they are getting on."
She ordered her people to dress him in fine clothes, a fine carriage was prepared, and they drove off. As they were approaching the village, the lady said to her bridegroom:
[paragraph continues] "Put your old clothes on." Then she called an old, ragged beggarwoman and sent him with her. She herself remained outside of the village.
When the brothers saw Jura coming with the ragged beggarwoman, they shouted: "He is bringing home an old ragged bride, and he's in rags too." The other brothers were married too, and they were pretty badly off, so they turned him out and wouldn't have him at home.
So Jura went out of the village; he changed his clothes and drove back with the lady to his brothers' cottage. When the carriage stopped before the cottage, the brothers said: "What a fine carriage! Who is that noble lord and the beautiful lady who have come to our cottage?" They did not recognize their brother.
So she said: "Look here. You were always hard on your brother, always sneering at him, and now you are badly off enough, while he is getting on splendidly. If you mend your ways, you will get on too."
Afterwards she gave them some money and went away with Jura.