At last they came to a great house having seven stories, and there on a table they saw many candles, some long, some short, some burned out. Said Juan, “Friend, what are all these candles?” “Hush, child, those are the lives of your friends.” “What are those empty candlesticks?” “Those are your mother and your uncle, who are dead.” “Who is this long one?” “That is your father, who has long to live.” “Who is this very short one?” “That is your master, who will die soon.” “May I put in another?” “Yes, child, if you wish.” So he changed it for a long one, and with his heavenly companion he returned to earth.
There he told his master, the padre, all that he had seen and heard and how he had changed the candles; and he and his master lived together a very long time. And in the fulness of time the padre died, but Juan went to heaven one day with his Lord and never returned.
The Sad Story of Juan and Maria.
Juan and Maria were orphans. When Juan was about eight years old and Maria was about four their father died. The mother went into the hemp fields to earn a living for her family by stripping the fibre from the hemp, which is very hard work, so hard that she died worn out in a month or two afterward.
Juan and Maria were then taken into the family of an uncle, their mother’s brother, and little Juan began to work for his little sister’s and his own living, by transplanting the tender shoots of the banana. Maria often accompanied him, as the children were much attached to each other. One day when they were out in the field Maria saw a beautiful bird which seemed very tame and tried to catch it, but the bird ran into the woods, and although she could come very close to it she could not catch it. On and on she went until she was almost ready to drop, her tiny feet leaving no trace, but still she followed the bird. Just at night she saw an old man with a very kind face, who came toward her, and putting the bird under one arm and taking Maria on his shoulder, he set off toward his house, which did not seem to be very far off. Arriving there he said to his wife, “See, wife, what good fortune I have had today.” Seeing the child, his wife threw up her hands in thanksgiving and cried, “Thanks be to God, we have a child at last in our old age.”
Poor Juan, torn with fear, hunted the woods for days, but could not find his little sister. Convinced at last that his search was hopeless, he went home and worked hard and in a few years became a rich man. Then he began to consider where he could find a suitable wife. It was told him that there was an old couple beyond three ranges of mountains who had a beautiful daughter, and to her he determined to go.
Maria had likewise grown up, and now she was the most beautiful damsel in many days’ journey. When Juan set out on his search, it was to the house of Maria’s foster parents that he was bound.