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Once upon a time a poor old man and woman owned a goat. They loved their goat as if he were a child, for they had no children of their own.
People talked about the old man and woman behind their backs. “Fools,” they whispered, “treating a goat as if he were a son.” “It’s ridiculous,” others said. “How can anyone love a goat?”
But the old man and woman did not care about gossip. They enjoyed their goat’s company, and they treated him with tender affection.
One day the old man went into the forest to gather wood. As always, his goat trotted behind him. As he worked, the goat searched for bits of grass to munch among the fallen leaves.
When the old man had gathered all the wood he needed, he turned to call his goat. He noticed that the goat had dug a hole in the ground. The man looked into the hole, and at the bottom he saw an old, rusting trunk.
Without a moment’s hesitation, he climbed into the hole. He got hold of the trunk and, breathing heavily, lifted it out of the hole.
Imagine his joy when he found inside hundreds of shining gold coins! He threw aside his wood, picked up the chest and hurried home. His faithful goat trotted closely behind him.
His wife was overjoyed at the sight of the gold. “This is our reward for all our hard years of work,” she cried. “Now at last we shall live in comfort.”
“My dear wife,” the old man said, “we must not forget that this is our goat’s fortune, for he is the one who found it. We will use it for his benefit.” The old woman agreed, of course.
From that day on, the goat led a life of ease and comfort. Every morning the old man walked him to the farthest fields so that he might graze on the best grass. At night they laid him in a fleecy bed beside the fire.
For years the three lived very well and happily together. But, sad to say, one day the goat got sick, and before long he died.
“I shall dearly miss our goat,” the old man said. “I will ask the priest to prepare a service for him.” The old woman thought that a splendid idea.
The old man went to the church and bowed to the priest. “Father,” he said humbly, “our old goat has died, and my wife and I want you to give him a fine funeral. He was very devout.”
The priest was furious. “How dare you ask me to bury a useless old goat?” he cried.
But the old man was no fool. He looked into the priest’s eyes and said, “Father, I forgot to say that our goat left you 200 rubles in his will.”
“Ahh,” said the priest. “Of course your goat deserves a funeral. I only wish you had explained which goat it was that died.”
Click here for Part Two