THE GOLDEN GODMOTHER
HERE was once a wealthy farmer named Lukas
who was so careless in the management of his
affairs that there came a time when all his property
was gone and he had nothing left but one old tumble-down
cottage. Then when it was too late he realized
how foolish he had been.
He had always prayed for a child but during the
years of his prosperity God had never heard him.
Now when he was so poor that he had nothing to eat,
his wife gave birth to a little daughter. He looked
at the poor unwelcome little stranger and sighed, for
he didn't know how he was going to take care of it.
The first thing to be thought about was the
christening. Lukas went to the wife of a laborer who
lived nearby and asked her to be godmother. She
refused because she didn't see that it would do her
any good to be godmother to a child of a man as poor
"You see, Lukas, what happens to a man who has
 wasted his property," his wife said. "While we were
rich the burgomaster himself was our friend, but now
even that poverty-stricken woman won't raise a finger
to help us. . . . See how the poor infant shivers, for
I haven't even any old rags in which to wrap it! And
it has to lie on the bare straw! God have mercy on
us, how poor we are!" So she wept over the baby,
covering it with tears and kisses.
Suddenly a happy thought came to her. She
wiped away her tears and said to her husband:
"I beg you, Lukas, go to our old neighbor, the
burgomaster's wife. She is wealthy. I'm sure she
hasn't forgotten that I was godmother to her child.
Go and ask her if she will be godmother to mine."
"I don't think she will," Lukas answered, "but
I'll ask her."
With a heavy heart he went by the fields and the
barns that had once been his own and entered the
house of his old friend, the burgomaster.
"God bless you, neighbor," he said to the burgomaster's
wife. "My wife sends her greeting and bids
me tell you that God has given us a little daughter
whom she wants you to hold at the christening."
The burgomaster's wife looked at him and laughed
in his face.
 "My dear Lukas, of course I should like to do
this for you, but times are hard. Nowadays a person
needs every penny and it would take a good deal to
help such poor beggars as you. Why don't you ask
some one else? Why have you picked me out? "
"Because my wife was godmother to your child."
"Oh, that's it, is it? What you did for me at that
time was a loan, was it? And now you want me to
give you back as much as you gave me, eh? I'll do
no such thing! If I were as generous as you used to
be, I'd soon go the way you have gone. No! I shall
not walk one step toward that christening!"
Without answering her, Lukas turned and went
home in tears.
"You see, dear wife," he said when he got there,
"it turned out as I knew it would. But don't be
discouraged, for God never entirely forsakes any one.
Give me the child and I myself will carry it to the
christening and the first person I meet I shall take
Weeping all the while, the wife wrapped the baby
in a piece of old skirt and placed it in her husband's
On the way to the chapel, Lukas came to a crossroads
where he met an old woman.
 "Grandmother," he said, "will you be godmother
to my child?" And he explained to her how every
one else had refused on account of his poverty and
how in desperation he had decided to ask the first person
he met. "And so, dear grandmother," he concluded "I am asking you."
"Of course I'll be godmother," the old woman
said. "Here, give me the dear wee thing!"
So Lukas gave her the child and together they
went on to the chapel.
As they arrived the priest was just ready to leave.
The sexton hurried up to him and whispered that a
christening party was coming.
"Who is it?" he asked, impatiently.
"Oh, it's only that good-for-nothing of a Lukas
who is poorer than a church mouse."
The godmother saw that the sexton was whispering
something unfriendly, so she pulled out a shining
ducat from her pocket, stepped up to the priest, and
pressed it into his hand.
The priest blinked his eyes in amazement, looking
first at the ducat and then at the shabby old woman
who had given it. He stuffed the ducat into his
pocket, whispered hurriedly to the sexton to bring him
the font, and then christened the child of poor Lukas
 with as much ceremony as the child of the richest
townsman. The little girl received the name Marishka.
After the christening the priest accompanied the
godmother to the door of the chapel and the sexton
went even farther until he, too, received the reward
for which he was hoping.
When Lukas and the old woman came to the crossroads
where they had met, she handed him the child.
Then she reached into her pocket, drew out another
golden ducat which she stuck into a fold of the child's
clothes, and said: "From this ducat with which I
endow my godchild, you will have enough to bring her
up properly. She will always be a joy and a comfort
to you, and when she grows up she will make a happy
marriage. Now good-by."
She drew a green wand from her bosom and
touched the earth. Instantly a lovely rosebush appeared,
covered with blooms. At the same moment
the old woman vanished.
In bewilderment Lukas looked this way and that
but she was gone. He was so surprised that he didn't
know what had happened. I really think he would
be standing on that same spot to this day if little
Marishka had not begun to cry and by this reminded
him of home.
 His wife, meantime, was anxiously awaiting him.
She, poor soul, was suffering the pangs of hunger,
thirst, and bodily pain. There wasn't a mouthful of
bread in the house, nor a cent of money.
As Lukas entered the room, he said: "Weep no
more, dear wife. Here is your little Marishka. But
before you kiss the child, take out the christening gift
that you will find tucked away in her clothes. From
it you will know what an excellent godmother she
The wife reached into the clothes and pulled out
not one ducat but a whole handful of ducats!
"Oh!" she gasped and in her surprise she dropped
the ducats and they rolled about in the straw that littered
the wretched floor.
"Husband! Husband! Who gave you so much
money? Just look!"
"I have already looked and at first when I saw
them I was more surprised than you are. Now let
me tell you where they come from."
So Lukas related to his wife all that had happened
at the christening. In conclusion he said: "When I
saw the old woman was really gone, I started home.
On the way curiosity overcame me and I drew out
the christening present and instead of one ducat I
 found a handful. I can tell you I was surprised but
instead of letting them drop on the ground I let them
slip back into the baby's clothes. I said to myself:
'Let your wife also have the pleasure of pulling out
those golden horses.' And now, dear wife, leave off
exclaiming. Give thanks to God for that which he
has bestowed upon us and help me gather up the
golden darlings, for we don't want any one coming in
and spying on us just now."
As they began picking them up, they had a new
surprise. Wherever there was one ducat, there they
found ten! When they got them all together they
made a fine big heap.
"Oh, dear, oh, dear!" said the woman as she gazed
at the pile. "Who knows whether this money will be
blessed to our use? Perhaps that old woman was an
evil spirit who just wants to buy our souls!"
Lukas looked at his wife reprovingly. "How can
you be so foolish? Do you suppose an evil spirit
would have gone with me to church, allowed herself
to be sprinkled with holy water, yes, and even herself
make the sign of the cross! Never! I don't say that
she is just an ordinary human being, but I do say
that she must be a good spirit whom God has sent to
us to help us. I'm sure we can keep this money with
a clear conscience. The first question is where to hide
it so that no one can find it. For the present I shall
put it into the chest, but tomorrow night I shall bury
it under the pear tree. And one thing, wife, I warn
you: don't say anything about it to any one. I shall
take one ducat and go to the burgomaster's wife and
ask her to change it. Then I shall go buy some milk
and eggs and bread and flour, and I'll bring back a
woman with me who will make us a fine supper.
Tomorrow I'll go to town and buy some clothes and
feather beds. After that what else shall I buy? Can you guess?"
"The best thing to do would be to buy back our
old property—the house, the fields, and the live stock,
and then manage it more wisely than before."
"You're right, wife, that's just what I'll do.
And I will manage prudently this time! I have learned
my lesson, I can tell you, for poverty is a good teacher."
When Lukas had hidden the money in the chest
and turned the key, he took one ducat and went out
to make his purchases. While he was gone his wife
spent the time nursing the child and weaving happy
dreams that now, she was sure, would come to pass.
After a short hour the door opened and Lukas and
 a red-cheeked maid entered. The maid carried a great
pail of foaming milk. Lukas followed her with a
basket of eggs in one hand and on top of the eggs two
big round brown cakes, and in the other hand a load
of feather beds tied in a knot.
"God be with you!" said the maid, placing the
milk pail on the bench. "My mistress, the burgomaster's
wife, greets you and sends you some milk for
pudding. If there is anything else you need you are
to let her know." The maid curtsied and went away
before the poor woman could express her thanks.
Lukas laughed and said: "You see, wife, what just
one ducat did! If they knew how many more we had
they would carry us about in their arms! The burgomaster's
wife has sent us all these things. She is
lending us feather beds until tomorrow and she is
going to send us an old woman to help us out. I told
her our child had received a handful of ducats as a
christening gift. If she comes here to see you, make
up your mind what you're going to say."
Then Lukas built a fire. Presently the old woman
came and soon good hot soup was ready. It was just
plain milk soup, but I can tell you it tasted better to
hungry Lukas and his wife than the rich food which
the king himself ate that day from a golden platter.
 The next day after breakfast Lukas set out for
town. The burgomaster's wife took advantage of his
absence to visit his wife and find out what she could
about the money.
"My dear neighbor," she said, after she had made
the necessary inquiries about health, "the blessing of
God came into your house with that child."
"Oh," said the other, "if you mean the christening
gift, it isn't so very much. A handful of ducats soon
roll away. However, may God repay that good
woman, the godmother. At least we can now buy
back our old farm and live like respectable people."
On the way home the burgomaster's wife stopped
at the houses of her various friends and gave them a
full account of Lukas' wealth. Before noon every
small boy in the village knew that at Lukas' house
they had a hogshead of ducats.
In the evening Lukas came back from town driving
a cart that was piled high with furniture and clothing
and feather beds and food. The next day he bought
back his old farm with the cattle and the implements.
This marked the beginning of a new life for Lukas.
He set to work with industry and put into practice
all the lessons that poverty had taught him.
He and his wife lived happily. Their greatest joy
 was Marishka, a little girl so charming and so pretty
that every one loved her on sight.
"Dear neighbor," all the old women used to say
to the child's mother, "that girl of yours will never
grow up. She's far too wise for her years!"
But Marishka did very well. She grew up into a
beautiful young woman and one day a prince saw her,
fell in love with her, and married her. So the old
godmother's prophecy that Marishka would make a
happy marriage was fulfilled.