Markova Nataliya S.: другие произведения.

The Island of Always Summer

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  • Аннотация:
    Three brothers, an artisan, a musician, and a merchant, set out on a voyage to master their chosen professions. A storm brings them to an enchanted island

  

THE ISLAND OF ALWAYS SUMMER

  

Natalia Markova

  
   A heavily loaded wagon was lumbering on the narrow, cobbled streets of the town of Iznemot that was lying among pine forests along the beaches of the Western Sea. The wagon stopped in front of a shop, and the wagoner got down. In the shop window, various goods were laid out, nails and hammers, rolls of cheap cloth, crockery, kitchen utensils, spice and grocery. On the second floor, a woman in a white bonnet was looking through the window. As she saw the wagon, she clapped her hands with joy and hastened down to open the door.
   'Didn't you tell me that you'd come back as soon as you sell away all unsold stuff?' said the woman reproachfully after a short kiss.
   'Forgive me, dear, it was a chance not to miss. Look, there's a wagon full of goods that need to be unloaded.'
   'Let me call the salesman.'
   'Where's Anton? He could give me a hand.'
   A salesman came out of the shop, followed by two boys, the elder boy holding the smaller one tightly by the hand.
   'Peter,' addressed the woman the elder boy, 'Please go and fetch Anton, he's somewhere with the neighbors, either the carpenter or glassblower.'
   'He said that he was going to learn how to bake bread,' squeaked the smaller boy, Ian, while picking his nose.
  'You go to the baker's then,' the mother nudged Peter. 'Tell him father needs his help to unload the goods.'
   'Hanging around with the neighbors, as usual,' frowned the merchant.
   'Don't be mad at him, it's not for fun. Remember a pan that gave a leak two weeks ago? Well, he's brazed it. And yesterday he fixed the chair, the one you've broken, by the way.'
   'He'd better helped me in the shop, so that I could later pass him down my business.'
   Peter returned, panting.
   'Anton said that he would be back when all the bread he'd kneaded was ready.'
   The merchant spit on the cobblestones with vexation.
  
  The wagon had been long unloaded and everyone had finished dinner when Anton came, a warm loaf of bread wrapped in a towel under his arm, guilty look on his face.
   'You should go apologize to Dad,' said his mother.
  Anton stepped tremulously into the father's room.
  The merchant was clicking the abacus and did not notice his son to approach.
  "What are you doing, Dad?"
  "Making money," snapped the father without giving a glance.
  "Making money? What from?"
  "From other money," replied the father, his eyes still on the ledger.
  The son was puzzled.
  "How confusing! I've seen our neighbors to blow out vases from glass, to bake bread from flour, water and salt, to make chairs and tables from wood. But no one makes bread from bread, vases from vases, and chairs from chairs. Oh, I got it! You must print money on paper!"
  "Me? On paper? Shut up, you stupid! All it needs is some neighbor to hear your stupid words, and I'll be sent to jail for nothing. Hey, wife, give him a good thrash and send him to school to fix his brains!"
  By no means was the merchant going to make a fortune printing fake money. He was honest and diligent in his business dealings; and before long he bought several shops and shipped his goods to far-off countries on vessels of his own. As a well-to-do man, he moved into a nicer house in a richer neighborhood.
  
   'Where have you been, son? Since we've moved into this house you're always away. Must have been walking in the forest? Why not to play with the boys in the street?'
   'They are so boring, mom. All they do is boast whose parents are richer and of nobler descent.'
  Peter, the middle merchant's son, a plain, angular boy, held out a little basket full of strawberries.
  'It's for you, mom. See, what I have. Isn't he beautiful?'
  He reached into the pocket for a box and opened it. There was a glossy blue and green beetle crawling in the box. The boy let the beetle go.
  'You should see it, mom, for yourself! The dog-rose in blossom, as white as snow! And chaffinches twittering all around. Know what, mom? I've composed a song. Here you go!'
  
The day was green,
The sun was gold.
A cloud closed in
With rain and cold.

The sun was a smile; the cloud was a tear,
A moment to come, another to disappear.

The cloud poured rain
;In a wistful cry,
A wind gust came,
And the ground went dry.

The cloud was hesitant, the wind was impatient,
A moment of sadness, another of passion.
  
  The boy's voice was strident, but his mother had enough patience to listen to the end. Then she said:
   'You'd better play it to me later on your reed-pipe. Or rather on the violin.'
   'And on the trumpet, too. It will sound like a march. I'll go and sing it to Dad.'
   'Wait, sonny, he's busy now...'
   But Peter's desire to share his elation was so strong, that he stormed into his Father's study.
  'Listen, Dad!'
  'Don't you see I'm busy? Don't bother me.'
  "What are you doing, Dad?"
   The merchant, still wrapped in thoughts, snapped, "Money."
   In the boy's opinion, money was something that could wait.
   "Listen to my song, Dad? I've composed it by myself!"
   "Haven't I told you I'm busy? Get off."
   Peter felt resentful. Never again did he badger his father with his songs.
  
   As years went by, the youngest son, Ian, grew up. The other day he came over to his father with the same question, "What are you doing, Dad?"
   And again the reply was: "Making money."
   "How do you make it? What from?"
   "From other money."
   "Oh, Dad, I'd like to make money too. Will you please teach me?"
   The merchant was deeply touched.
   "Want to make money, son? It's not that simple. There are a lot of things to learn, you know. The properties of money and goods, habits and tastes of people, sea winds and trade routes. And you need to be single-minded and forceful to make the others work for you, all the while being useful to the others."
   "What do you mean by that, Dad?"
   "Let's take, say, a glass-blower. I've bought a vase from him, right? Another vase was bought by our neighbor, yet another by somebody else, and so on. Now that everybody has enough vases, we don't need any more, however nice they could be. The craftsman has no one to sell his products to, he can't earn any more money. What's to be done?"
   "Oh, I know, you buy vases from him and take them to another town."
   "Right, son. I take his vases to another town and what I have on arrival is splinters."
   "Oh, I see, you order to pack them carefully."
   "Right, they are carefully packed, and shipped to another town, but nobody buys them, their own glass-blowers produce the same kind of vases, or maybe, that sort of things doesn't appeal to them."
   "Oh, Dad, I got it! First you learn where you can sell your goods to a profit."
   "Yeah, I do get some profit, but in the beginning it's nothing but expenses. I have to pay for the goods, packing, and shipping. To have a good profit, I must bring from my travels something that I can sell here -- gems for our jewelers, precious wood for our cabinetmakers, silk for our women, bananas and oranges for our children. See, making money is not that simple."
  
  Minutes ticked off, days ran away, years passed by, now all of the merchant's sons came of age, each of them eager to succeed in his chosen job. They asked permission from their father to set out on a long journey across the sea. The eldest son wanted to learn handicraft, the middle son dreamed of studying music and poetry, while the youngest one was looking forward to study tradecraft.
   The three brothers boarded the ship, and on she started, the sails bellying, waves simmering behind the stern, seagulls wheeling around, and the church spires and red roofs flowing out beyond the horizon. Good-bye, dear town of Iznemot!
  
   They spent winter in western lands, where Anton worked as an apprentice to a gunsmith. Meanwhile, Peter learned how to put down music on the paper. Ian, the youngest one, pored over the intricacies of accounting.
   In spring they moved to southern lands. There Anton was engaged by a craftsman who showed him how to use steam for driving a loom or a coach. Peter found a teacher who explained him how to make several instruments sound in concert. Ian became an expert in money; he learned the exact value, appearance and weight of coins from different countries.
   As summer approached, the brothers moved further on to eastern lands, which they found quite different from everything they had seen before. Ian was fascinated with an enormous variety of goods, especially gems. Anton sought to discover the secret of the steel from which local craftsmen produced very sharp and durable sword blades, and in the meantime learned how to make beautiful fireworks. Peter was so carried away with unusual sounds and instruments that he was unwilling to leave when his eldest brother, disappointed as he failed to find a smith who would share his secrets with him, told it was time to set sail for home.
  
Wind, oh wind,
So kind and meek,
Waves, oh waves,
So blue and slick.

Will you roar and surge in foam,
Or will you bring us quickly home?
  
   Never were the brothers bored during the voyage. They took every opportunity to learn something new. Anton learned to steer the ship and navigate by stars. Ian got on good terms with other passengers and inquired about their countries and ways of life. Peter appeared to stay idle, greeting the first sunrays at dawn, listening to the wailing wind in the daytime, watching a glowing sky at sunset, and counting stars at night. And then wonderful music emerged from his violin.
  
  One sunny afternoon, Peter called his brothers onto the deck to admire the vast expanse of the ocean. All of a sudden, a black twister blew in and swept all the three brothers away from the ship. For hours was the twister hurling its prey high in the sky, until at night it flung them down on an unknown coast, along with fish, crabs, turtles, and seaweed.
  The young men found themselves in the midst of a rain forest, unknown stars overhead, creepy noises around. They waited until dawn and set off on reconnaissance.
  The brothers were making their way through the forest, where small birds the size of butterflies were fluttering over colorful flowers, and butterflies the size of birds were slowly flapping their heavy velvety wings. Now and again, they heard a crunch, a screech, or a caw, and looked apprehensively around, sometimes catching a glimpse of a rat's tail, sometimes noticing a pair of yellow eyes glimmering through tangled vines.
  Suddenly the leaves rustled, the twigs overhead snapped, and a pack of monkeys tumbled down straight on the travelers' heads, jabbering in human language, "The king is waiting for you! Come along! Come with us! Be quick! Don't make the king wait long!"
  They dragged the brothers along winding pathways to the mouth of a cave. The monkeys pushed the brothers inside, into the gloom and chill of the earthy passage. After a while, they came to a sort of a large hall, dimly lit by green light pouring from several cut gems, as big as a fist. Against the far wall there was a dais, where a huge serpent was drowsing, coiled in rings.
  The Serpent slowly reared its head, welcomed the guests and asked them who they were and where they had come from. The young men told him about themselves and asked where the twister had brought them.
  "You are on the magic Island of Eternal Summer. It's always warm here. Neither rain showers, nor droughts. Bananas, figs, and pineapples ripen all the year round. You are the only humans here, and the animals won't do you any harm, so enjoy your stay here."
  "Oh, king, how come that your animals can speak human language?" asked Peter.
  "Not all of them, only the monkeys who are in my service," answered the Serpent. "But you can talk to all my animals by means of two magic words. When you say "kudasai" you'll turn into the animal like the one you're looking at. To regain human shape just say "arigato".
  The brothers exchanged glances and said, "Thank you, King! But marvelous as your island is, we can't stay. We left home to perfect our skills, but here they are useless. Besides, our parents must be missing us badly. Oh, King! Please help us get back home. In return, we would do any service for you."
  "What you need," said the Serpent thoughtfully, "is a strong charm, which would stay effective far away from my island. I don't have time to help you now, since I'm in trouble myself. You're not the only ones brought to the island by the twister, there's a lot of fish and other sea folk dying on the ground. Before long will they shrivel in the heat. My loyal monkeys are now carrying them back to the ocean, but I hate to think about what happens if they are late, about all these creatures rotting on the island... Help me to rescue the sea-folk, then I'll help you to get back home."
  
  The young men joined the chain of monkeys passing fish to the coast, one at a time. But they were obviously too slow. The fish were breathing hard through bristled gills. Suddenly Anton burst into laughter:
  "How stupid of me! What we need is an ordinary basket."
  He tried to weave a basket but soon it became pretty clear that it would take him too long.
  "Too bad that I haven't learned basket weaving!" sighed Anton.
  Still, he kept plodding away over a basket, while Ian sat down on the grass, rubbing his head in contemplation. Peter sat beside him and looked around. Something caught his eye, and he pointed upward, shouting, "See the nest over there? Doesn't it look like a basket? We could ask the bird how he's built it. That would be a good occasion to make use of the magic words."
  "Rubbish!" snorted Ian. "Magic is rubbish. I'm not going to sweat over stinking fish. Don't you worry, just leave everything to me. Father has taught me to make others work for me. See you at the Serpent's tonight."
  And with this he left them.
  Anton shook his head doubtfully.
  "There's no one here whose service he could use. We can depend only on ourselves."
  Peter paused and said, stammering, "I'm very ashamed... but... I'm afraid of turning into a bird. What if something goes wrong and I fail to change back to human shape?"
  Anton was undaunted, "Every time I was learning a new job, I had to pore over it painstakingly, like a bird over its nest."
  The magical transformation went off well. Owing to the bird's advice, weaving three big baskets didn't take long, and soon all the fish was back to the ocean.
  The Serpent met them, beaming at them benevolently, since he already knew what they'd done.
  "I'll gladly help you across the ocean!" said he. 'Follow me.'
  "We can't leave without our brother, King. He must turn up soon."
  The Serpent gave a disapproving wave of his tail, his eyes glinted with red, and he hissed, "Your brother did very badly."
  Ian had come to the Serpent and said, "Hey, king, I'll tell you what. I guess, there must be some fishing ship close enough to allow your charm to bring me to. I'll tell the fishermen to come ashore and take away the fish. No rotten fish for you and a tidy sum of money for me. By the way, we could sell your speaking monkeys. Both of us can earn a lot of nice ringing golden coins. Come on, King, it's a bargain."
  These words had made the Serpent King furious.
  "It's not by force, but by wisdom that I rule my island. I am trying to save the fish, not to sell them. And you, so cruel and greedy a man, will turn into the thing you value most."
  The king handed a golden coin to the eldest brother. "If your brother does three acts of kindness in this shape, he'll become a man again."
  Downhearted, Anton slipped the coin into the pocket.
  "Now we're heading for the Magic Birds' Garden," announced the Serpent, slithering down from his dais out of his cave and along a narrow path. The brothers followed him.
  "You can take the shape of any bird that catches your eye," said the Serpent, the tip of his tail beckoning the brothers to step onto a big flat stone. "As soon as you set your feet on your native land, the spell will be over. Now give a loud whistle to startle the birds. When they take off, choose a strong one and say "kudasai-arigato". But be careful, this kind of magic can be used only once..."
  At this moment a magnificent bird descended onto the grass, its head crowned with a stately tuft, golden feathers quivering in the long tail.
  "How beautiful it is!" exclaimed Peter. "Kudasai-arigato!"
   With these words he turned into the beautiful bird.
  The Serpent looked embarrassed.
  "Ill-advised was your brother's choice. His wings aren't fit to carry him across the ocean. He will stay here forever, since only the soil of home can turn him into a man again. It's your turn now. Don't blow your chance!"
  Anton gave a loud whistle, causing birds to take wing. All kinds of birds, tiny hummingbirds, red and blue parrots, ugly vultures, hook-beaked eagles. Anton was all at a loss, when a grey crane took to the air and the young man understood, "That's it!".
  The magic words were hardly out of his mouth, when he felt mighty wings lifting him into the air.
  "Farewell, brother! Farewell, King Serpent! Farewell, Island of Eternal Summer!" gobbled the crane, soaring over the ocean.
  
  After a grueling travel, at dawn break, the crane reached his town, that was awaiting him, sprawled on the pine-wooded coast of the Western sea. Tidy, whitewashed houses, pinkish under a gentle morning sun, seemed smiling at him, familiar church steeples welcomed the young man with the chime of their bells.
  The eldest brother was ingenious and hard-working. He mastered all kinds of craft, which earned him a nickname of "Cleverhanded". In his workshop, Anton invented and built machines, each trickier than the last. The number of servants in the merchant's large house came down to one, who used Anton's machines to do all household chores. And though the old merchant grumbled that he could well do with his horses, now he was traveling only with a self-propelled carriage manufactured by his son. In his pursuit of excellence, Anton had forgotten about everything in the world, even about his enchanted brothers.
  Once, a crowd of young girls came to his workshop, curious to see the inventions so much spoken about. Among them there was Anita, her eyes as blue as flax flowers. Anton was so impressed with her beauty, that when the girls invited him to a party, he had great difficulty to force out a stuttering "yes". At the party he heard Anita singing, and he found her voice as sweet as the sound of a reed-pipe, and he fell in love with her. He chose a moment when the girl was alone and asked her to become his wife.
  His request made Anita burst into laughter, "Become your wife? And what about my singing? Won't it distract you from your work? You're so dull, there's no music in your heart. Become your wife! Your work will make you forget me like you've forgotten your missing brothers."
  Anton was upset. "And, in very truth, she's right. How could I forget about my poor brothers! I wonder how Peter is doing there, alone in the wilderness. Peter... He was the one with music in his heart. But... now I could bring him back home on a ship, and he could become a man again! He could teach me music! All of us would be happy!"
  
  The Cleverhanded outfitted one of his father's sailing ships with a tricky machine. The ship could sail propelled by the wind, and in the absence of the wind she could be driven by the machine.
  The ship made its way past western countries with tall stone houses and imposing cathedrals, she glided past southern countries with orange and lemon groves, then in due time she turned eastward.
  When the ship moored in a port, the Cleverhanded debarked into narrow streets of an eastern town. There he was, walking along mud windowless walls, admiring blue-domed mosques, watching people in long colorful robes and turbans. Then he found himself on a bazaar. The number of inducements in the bazaar exceeded the amount of money in the traveler's pocket. Anton was already out of money, when he ran across a group of three people. Two men were bargaining noisily. There was no merchandise around. One of the men kept a young shrouded girl by the hand, while the other, ugly and savage-looking, was shoving him a purse of money. Every time the seller refused to take the purse, the buyer added one more coin to the purse and shoved it again. It was for the first time that Anton saw slave-trading.
   With a pang of pity for the girl, the Cleverhanded fumbled in his pocket for money, but the only thing he could find there was the magic coin, his brother. How could he give his brother away into somebody's evil hands and lose him forever?
   After some hesitation, Anton made up his mind.
   "Very well," he said, "That's your first act of kindness, now you're on your own."
   This kind of coins must have been of great value in the country, because after having carefully examined the coin on both sides, the merchant promptly turned down the previous buyer and gave the girl's hand to Anton. Anton gestured to explain her that she was free, but the dark-skinned girl shook her head and silently followed him to the ship.
   Meanwhile, a crowd of people gathered in the harbor gaping at the amazing vessel. A boat with two richly dressed men approached the ship. One of them, an obese man in a brocade robe, said something to his companion, who steepled his fingers and shouted, "Ahoy there! Could we talk to the shipmaster?"
   The visitors were led to the Cleverhanded.
   "Our honorable bey is the richest person in the town," said the interpreter, bowing by terms to the brocade-robed man and to the Cleverhanded. "The highly esteemed bey has traveled a lot, but he's never seen a vessel like yours. The noble bey is used to getting whatever he pleases; he's offering his best sailing ship for your vessel."
   "I'm still far from my destination, and not at all certain that I can get there on an ordinary ship. No, I won't sell my vessel," demurred Anton.
   Then the bey reached into his pocket and produced a golden coin, the same coin the Cleverhanded had given out a few hours ago.
   "This is a very rare magic coin," explained the interpreter. "See, there's a wind-blower puffing out his cheeks on the one side and a sailing ship on the other. Just today, some stupid stranger has given this coin to one of the bey's servants for a worthless slave girl. He must have been unaware of the coin's magic property. If you're caught in a storm, just drop the coin into the sea, and as you do so, the waves will abate and a tail wind will bring you straight to your destination."
   The opportunity to get back his lost brother was too precious to miss.
   So the voyage continued on the new ship.
   They were only a few days away from the Island, when all of a sudden they were hit with a heavy storm. Waves were soaring like mountains, the masts were creaking, and the wind was driving the ship straight to the rocks. It was clear that in a few minutes they all would perish. Anton dropped the magic coin into the water.
   "Thay's your second act of kindness, brother, now you're on your own."
   The Cleverhanded was distressed by doing so. How was his brother supposed to carry out an act of kindness lying on the sea bottom? Once the coin came back by sheer chance, only miracle could bring it back again.
   The waves subsided and the wind drove the ship directly to the Island of Eternal Summer.
  
   On the island, Anton went to the Magic Birds' Garden. He was wandering around the garden, calling his brother, asking him to return home. At last, the magnificent bird descended, glittering with his precious plumage, and said, "Go back to your bleak stony town, brother. I'm doing quite well here."
   Nothing could persuade the bird; he spread his wings and flew away.
   The eldest brother came to see the Serpent.
   "Why so miserable, boy?" The King asked him, "Can I be of any help?"
   Anton burst into tears.
   "Oh, King! I've always lived properly, working a lot, doing no harm to anybody. But my virtues have never been rewarded. I fell for a girl who didn't care for me. I tried my best to get my brothers back, but to no avail. One of them rests on the sea bottom, and the other refuses to return to the people at all. I feel so unhappy! So good at machines and so helpless with people!"
   The Serpent answered with a smile, "The sea folk do remember what you've done for them, they'll be glad to give you a good turn. As for Peter..." he paused for a moment and went on, "He can be saved by the one who is unhappier than you."
   The Cleverhanded was puzzled.
   "What did he mean by that?" he thought on his way back to the ship. "My three seamen are well paid, well fed and well clothed, I never abuse them. They're quite unlikely to feel unhappy. Neither the island dwellers have anything to complain under the wise rule of the Serpent."
  
   In the morning it occurred to him: "What if it's the slave girl? She must feel most unhappy among unknown people speaking an unknown language and traveling in an unknown direction."
   Anton took the girl out onto the deck. There, in the sunshine, they saw turtles and crabs coming ashore and laying golden coins on the sand. Anton collected the coins and, much to his surprise, found an embossed wind-blower on each of them. Which one contained his brother?
   Then the Cleverhanded and the dark-skinned girl headed for the Birds' Garden again. The beautiful bird came over and began to sing. One could hear in his voice the sounds of a reed-pipe, violin and brass-necked trumpet.
   "Ask me to go back home, brother? Oh, how lonely I felt there, a plain boy lost in a crowded town, unable to render audible beautiful music welling in my soul. Here...
  
All my life is joy and pleasure,
I have all I need and treasure.
I can fly wherever I wish,
I can savor fruit and fish.

I can sing in a sweetest voice...
Leave me alone, I've made my choice.
  
   Then a lilting voice of the slave girl echoed in. Anton didn't know her language, but in some incomprehensible way he could understand everything. Even the bird was listening, fascinated.
  
  
Humans,
Buying and selling each other like cattle,
Lying, and killing each other in a battle.
Earning so hard their daily bread,
Forgetting of heavens in blood and sweat.

Humans
Struggling and dying for noble ideas,
Self-sacrificing for their dears.
Even when life is unbearably grim,
A human can of love and of happiness dream.
  
   When the girl's song was over, Anton took her by the hand and sullenly went back to the seashore, but much to his surprise, the bird followed them. They boarded the ship, weighed the anchor and left the Island of Eternal Summer.
  
   As the ship was sailing, the youngest brother was languishing in the purse along with other magic coins. Longing though he was to regain human shape, he could only idly wait for his turn to leave the purse.
  
Ding-dong,
A shiny coin,
Dong-ding,
Ringing,

Ding-dong,
All day long,
Ding-dong-doo,
That's all I can do.
  
   The Cleverhanded lavishly handed out the magic coins to the poor in the hope to release his brother. But the last coin went away without anything to happen.
   At last, the ship reached the town of Iznemot. Once the bird had stepped on the soil of home, Anton could embrace Peter in human shape. The brothers and the girl hurried home.
  
   They were in for a real shock. Unknown people dwelling in their house told the brothers that the previous owner had been ruined and had moved somewhere to the slum area.
   The brothers found their parents in a seedy shack. The father, tears in his eyes, told them, that first one of his warehouses, full of goods, caught fire. Then one of his ships crashed against the rocks, another was seized by pirates. He had to sell all Anton's tools.
   "Now," he went on, "we've got nothing but debts. If we don't pay them down in time, I'll go to debtor's prison. And with the interest, our debt is increasing every week. Oh, what a disaster, my dear sons!"
   "How are you making a living?"
  "There's one kindhearted lady..."
   He was interrupted with a knock at the door and the mother opened up.
   There was Anita, the blue-eyed girl, standing in the doorway.
   "If it were not for her, we would have starved to death," said the mother, pointing at the basket full of food in the girl's hands.
   As Anita looked at Peter, an invisible beam of affection stretched from the girl to the young man, connecting her blue and his gray eyes, transforming him totally. No one would call him plain at that moment.
   The eldest brother was surprised to find out that he didn't feel jealous at all. First,the singing of the dark-skinned girl's on the Island had stirred his soul, then he had noticed the affection she had for him, and by the end of the voyage the girl had made him feel the most important person in the world.
   The brothers sold the ship to pay out the debts. What was left over could suffice only for buying the simplest tools for Anton and the cheapest fiddle for Peter. Peter earned his living playing in the streets; Anton brazed old pans and repaired broken furniture. Poverty and hard work did not frighten Anita away. For her, music in the heart counted more than any wealth, so she married Peter. Anton took the small dark-skinned girl for a wife.
   It was hard to keep such a large family in bread. Once, over a scanty dinner, the father grumbled, "However hard you're working, you're getting not a bit better off. You'd rather hadn't given out all that gold coins. You've lost any trace of your brother and remained penniless."
   The mother sighed, "And I would readily give away everything to get back our poor boy."
   "Everything! What can they earn without tools, without money? They're doomed to poverty for the rest of their lives!"
   At that moment the cheerful voice of the youngest brother came, "You'll never be poor again! I've got enough money to set up a new workshop and to buy the best violin in the world!"
   And Ian it was indeed. He kissed everybody and told his story.
   "Giving me to a beggar wasn't an act of kindness at all: had I turned into a man, the beggar would have stayed hungry. When the beggar paid me for some bread, I still remained a coin, otherwise the baker would be deceived.
   At sunset, when the baker was going back home from his shop, he heard a loud cry in the street. It was a little boy, who had tumbled down and hurt his knee. The kind baker tried to comfort the boy and, seeing that words didn't help, he took out the golden coin and gave it to the child. The kid twirled the coin in his hands, then held it out to the glow of the evening sun, so that the coin sent little flecks of light in every direction. The moment the smile emerged on the boy's lips, I regained human shape.
   The baker gave me shelter and a job in his shop. But my earnings were poor. Once, in the market, I saw two outlandish merchants selling some odd-looking lumps that they touted as 'traveler's food'. However loud they were, no one bought it. You know, people are suspicious of unknown food. I ventured to try that traveler's food. The merchant soaked a lump in the water and offered me. I found that it was a kind of delicious bread. The merchant assured me that it could stay fresh as long as a month. I borrowed some money from my master and bought all the merchandise for half price. Then I spent a whole day and one fifth of the merchandise walking around the market and offering it to people for free. On the next day, I sold another fifth for half price. But on the third day people came in droves to buy the traveler's food from me. As the merchants refused to reveal the recipe, I contracted them for the delivery, and that was how I started my own business and made a fortune. See, Father, I've learned how to earn money by being useful to other people."
  
   From that time on, good luck never abandoned the brothers. Each of them excelled in his chosen job. The citizens were grateful to the Cleverhanded for his precise tools and labor-saving machines; they had the highest regard for Ian the merchant's honesty and enterprising vigor; they loved Peter for his songs that made people kind-hearted and good-looking.
  
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