Pedro had been living as a servant in a doctor’s house for more than nine years. He wanted very much to have a wife, but he had no business of any kind on which to support one.
One day he felt very sad. His look of dejection did not escape the notice of his master, who said, “What is the matter, my boy? Why do you look so sad? Is there anything I can do to comfort you?”
“Oh, yes!” said Pedro.
“What do you want me to do?” asked the doctor.
“Master,” the man replied, “I want a wife, but I have no money to support one.”
“Oh, don’t worry about money!” replied his master. “Be ready to-morrow, and I will let you marry the woman you love.”
The next day the wedding was held. The doctor let the couple live in a cottage not far from his hacienda,1 and he gave them two hundred pieces of gold. When they received the money, they hardly knew what to do with it, as Pedro had never had any business of any sort. “What shall we do after we have spent all our money?” asked the wife. “Oh, we can ask the doctor for more,” answered Pedro.
Years passed by, and one day the couple had not even a cent with which to buy food. So Pedro went to the doctor and asked him for some money. The doctor, who had always been kind to them, gave him twenty pieces of gold; but these did not last very long, and it was not many days before the money was all spent. The husband and wife now thought of another way by which they could get money from the doctor.
Early one day Pedro went to the doctor’s house weeping. He said that his wife had died, and that he had nothing with which to pay for her burial. (He had rubbed onion-juice on his eyes, so that he looked as if he were really crying.) When the doctor heard Pedro’s story, he pitied the man, and said to him, “What was the matter with your wife? How long was she sick?” “For two days,” answered Pedro.
“Two days!” exclaimed the doctor, “why did you not call me, then? We should have been able to save her. Well, take this money and see that she gets a decent burial.”
Pedro returned home in good spirits. He found his wife Marta waiting for him at the door, and they were happy once more; but in a month the money was all used up, and they were on the point of starving again.
Now, the doctor had a married sister whom Pedro and his wife had worked for off and on after their marriage. Pedro told his wife to go to the doctor’s sister, and tell her that he was dead and that she had no money to pay for the burial. Marta set out, as she was told; and when she arrived at the sister’s house, the woman said to her, “Marta, why are you crying?”
“My husband is dead, and I have no money to pay for his burial,” said Marta, weeping.
“You have served us well, so take this money and see that masses are said for your husband’s soul,” said the kind-hearted mistress.
That evening the doctor visited his sister to see her son who was sick. The sister told him that Marta’s husband had died. “No,” answered the doctor, “it was Marta who died.” They argued and argued, but could not agree; so they finally decided to send one of the doctor’s servants to see which one was dead. When Pedro saw the servant coming, he told his wife to lie flat and stiff in the bed as if she were dead; and when the servant entered, Pedro showed him his dead wife.
The servant returned, and told the doctor and his sister that it was Marta who was dead; but the sister would not believe him, for she said that perhaps he was joking. So they sent another servant. This time Marta made Pedro lie down stiff and flat in the bed; and when the servant entered the house, he saw the man lying as if dead. So he hurried back and told the doctor and his sister what he had seen. Now neither knew what to believe. The next morning, therefore, the doctor and his sister together visited the cottage of Pedro. They found the couple both lying as if dead. After examining them, however, the doctor realized that they were merely feigning death. He was so pleased by the joke, and so glad to find his old servants alive, that he took them home with him and made them stay at his house.