In the ancient country of Stiria, there lay a beautiful and fertile valley called Treasure Valley. Surrounded on all sides by high mountainous peaks, the region never knew famine. No matter what droughts or floods attacked the land beyond the mountains, Treasure Valley produced bountiful crops of apples, hay, grapes, and honey. Above the valley, beautiful cataracts fell in torrents. One of these shone like gold in the sunlight and thus was named the Golden River.
Treasure Valley was owned by three brothers, Schwartz, Hans, and Gluck. Schwartz and Hans, the older brothers, were stingy and mean. They farmed the valley and killed everything that did not bring them money. They paid their servants nothing, beating them until the servants could stand no more and then turning them out without wages. They kept their crops until they were worth double their usual value in order to sell them for high profits. Gold was stacked up on the floors, yet they gave never a penny to charity. Often people starved at their doorstep without receiving even a morsel of food. Neighbors nicknamed them the Black Brothers.
The youngest brother, Gluck, was a good and honest twelve-year-old lad. Although his heart was filled with pity for the poor, he was helpless against his brothers. He did all of their scrubbing and cooking and received nothing for his pains but an educational cuffing or kicking. One year when all the country was flooded and only the brothers had a harvest, Schwartz and Hans left Gluck alone one day to turn the roast. A terrible storm was raging. Suddenly, Gluck was startled to hear a knock at the door. Investigating, he saw the most peculiar little man imaginable, a creature only about four feet six inches tall, dressed in odd, old-fashioned clothing, who begged to come in out of the rain. Gluck knew what his brothers would do if they returned and found a stranger using their fire for warmth, and he was afraid to open the door; but his heart was so good and tender that he could not long refuse the stranger. The little man dripped so much water that he almost put out the fire. When he asked for food, Gluck feared to give him any. His brothers, however, had promised him one slice of the mutton, and he prepared to give the stranger that piece. Before he could finish cutting it, the brothers came home. Furious, they attempted to throw the stranger out, but when Schwartz struck at him, the stick was thrown from his hand. Each of the evil brothers attempted to strike the old man, only to be thrown back upon the floor. Wrapping his long cloak about him, the old man told them that he would come back at midnight and then never call again.
That night, the evil brothers awoke to hear a terrible storm. The roof was gone from their room, and in the darkness, bobbing around like a cork, was the old man. He told them that they would find his calling card on the kitchen table. At dawn, they went downstairs to find that the whole valley was in ruin; everything had been flooded and swept away. Their cattle, crops, and gold were all gone. They found a card on the table. Their caller had been the South-West Wind.
He was true to his word. Neither he nor the other winds blew again to bring rain to the valley. The land became a desert, the brothers penniless, and at last they left the valley and went to the city to become goldsmiths, taking with them all that was left of their inheritance, some curious pieces of gold plate. When they mixed copper with the gold to fool the public, the people would not buy the substitute. What...
(The entire section is 1447 words.)