In my old Granny’s days, long, long–oh, so long ago, Carland was just a collection of bogs. Pools of black water lay in the hollows, and little green rivulets scurried away here and there like long lizards trying to escape from their tails, while every tuft that you trod upon would squirt up at you like anything. Oh! it _was_ a nice place to be in on a dark night, I give you my word.
Now, I’ve heard my Granny say that a long time before her day the Moon got trapped and buried in the bog. I’ll tell you the tale as she used to tell it to me.
On some nights the beautiful Moon rose up in the sky and shone brighter and brighter, and the people blessed her because by her wonderful light they could find their way home at night through the treacherous bogs. But on other nights she did not come, and then it was so dark that the traveller could not find his way; and, besides, the Evil Things that feared the light–toads and creepy, crawly things, to say nothing of Bogles and Little Bad People–came out in the darkness to do all the harm they could, for they hated the people and were always trying to lead them astray. Many a poor man going home in the dark had been enticed by these malevolent things into quicksands and mud pools. When the Moon was away and the night was black, these vile creatures had their will.
When the Moon learned about this, she was very grieved, for she is a sweet, kind body, who spends nights without sleep, so as to show a light for people going home. She was troubled about it all, and said to herself, ‘I’ll just go down and see how matters stand.’
So, when the dark end of the month came round, she stepped down out of the sky, wrapped from head to foot in her black travelling cloak with the hood drawn over her bright golden hair. For a moment she stood at the edge of the marshes, looking this way and that. Everywhere, as far as she could see, was the dismal bog, with pools of black water, and gnarled, fantastic-looking snags sticking up here and there amid the dank growth of weeds and grasses. There was no light save the feeble glimmer of the stars reflected in the gloomy pools; but, upon the grass where she stood, a bright ring of moonlight shone from her feet beneath her cloak.
She saw this and drew her garments closer about her. It was cold, and she was trembling. She feared that vast expanse of bog and its evil creatures, but she was determined to face the matter out and see exactly how the thing stood.
Guided by the light that streamed from her feet, she advanced into the bog. As the summer wind stirs one tussock after another, so she stepped onward between the slimy ponds and deadly quagmires. Now she reached a jet-black pool, and all too late she saw the stars shining in its depths. Her foot tripped and all she could do was to snatch at an overhanging branch of a snag as she fell forward. To this she clung, but, fast as she gripped it, faster still some tendrils from the bough whipped round her wrists like manacles and held her there a prisoner. She struggled and wrenched and tugged with all her might and main, but the tendrils only tightened and cut into her wrists like steel bands.
In her frantic struggles the hood of her cloak fell back from her dazzling golden hair, and immediately the whole place was flooded with light.
As she stood there shivering in the dark and wondering how to free herself, she heard far away in the bog a voice calling through the night. It was a wailing cry, dying away in despair. She listened and listened, and the repeated cry came nearer; then she heard footsteps–halting, stumbling and slipping. At last, by the dim light of the stars, she saw a haggard, despairing face with fearful eyes; and then she knew it was a poor man who had lost his way and was floundering on to his death. Now he caught sight of a gleam of light from the captive Moon, and made his uncertain way towards it, thinking it meant help. As he came nearer and nearer the pool, the Moon saw that her light was luring him to his death, and she felt so very sorry for him, and so angry with herself that she struggled fiercely at the cords that held her. It was all in vain, but, in her frantic struggles, the hood of her cloak fell back from her dazzling golden hair, and immediately the whole place was flooded with light, which fell on muddy pools and quicks and quags, glinting on the twisted roots and making the whole place as clear as day.
How glad the wayfarer was to see the light! How pleased he was to see all the Evil Things of the dark scurrying back into their holes! He could now find his way, and he made for the edge of the treacherous marsh with such haste that he had not time to wonder at the strange thing that had happened. He did not know that the blessed light that showed him his path to safety shone from the radiant hair of the Moon, bound fast to a snag and half buried in the bog. And the Moon herself was so glad he was safe, that she forgot her own danger and need. But, as she watched him making good his escape from the terrible dangers of the marshes, she was overcome by a great longing to follow him. This made her tug and strain again like a demented creature, until she sank exhausted, but not free, in the mud at the foot of the snag. As she did so, her head fell forward on her breast, and the hood of her cloak again covered her shining hair.
At that moment, just as suddenly as the light had shone out before, the darkness came down with a swish, and all the vile things that loved it came out of their hiding-places with a kind of whispering screech which grew louder and louder as they swarmed abroad on the marshes. Now they gathered round the poor Moon, snarling and scratching at her and screaming hateful mockeries at her. At last they had her in their power–their old foe whose light they could not endure; the Bright One whose smile of light sent them scurrying away into their crevices and defeated their fell designs.
‘Hell roast thee!’ cried an ugly old witch-thing; ‘thou’rt the meddlesome body that spoils all our brews.’
‘Out on thee!’ shrieked the bogle-bodies; ‘if ’twere not for thee we’d have the marsh to ourselves.’
And there was a great clamour–as out-of-tune as out-of-tune could be. All the things of darkness raised their harsh and cracked voices against the Bright One of the sky. ‘Ha, ha!’ and ‘Ho, ho!’ and ‘He, he!’ mingled with chuckles of fiendish glee, until it seemed as if the very trickles and gurgles of the bog were joining in the orgy of hate.
‘Burn her with corpse-lights!’ yelled the witch.
‘Ha, ha! He, he!’ came the chorus of evil creatures.
‘Truss her up and stifle her!’ screamed the creeping things. ‘Spin webs round her!’ And the spiders of the night swarmed all over her.
‘Sting her to death!’ said the Scorpion King at the head of his brood.
‘Ho, ho! He, he!’ And, as each vile thing had something to say about it, a horrible, screeching dispute arose, while the captive Moon crouched shuddering at the foot of the snag and gave herself up as lost.
The dim grey light of the early dawn found them still hissing and clawing and screeching at one another as to the best way to dispose of the captive. Then, when the first rosy ray shot up from the Sun, they grew afraid. Some scuttled away, but those who remained hastened to do something–anything that would smother the light of the Moon. The only thing they could think of now was to bury her in the mud,–bury her deep. They were all agreed on this as the quickest way.
So they clutched her with skinny fingers and pushed her down into the black mud beneath the water at the foot of the snag. When they had all stamped upon her, the bogle-bodies ran quickly and fetched a big black stone which they hurled on top of her to keep her down. Then the old witch called two will-o’-the-wisps from the darkest part of the marshes, and, when they came dancing and glancing above the pools and quicks, she bade them keep watch by the grave of the Moon, and, if she tried to get out, to sound an alarm.
Then the horrid things crept away from the morning light, chuckling to themselves over the funeral of the Moon, and only wishing they could bury the Sun in the same way; but that was a little too much to hope for, and besides, all respectable Horrors of the Bog ought to be asleep in bed during the Sun’s journey across the sky.
The poor Moon was now buried deep in the black mud, with a heavy stone on top of her. Surely she could never again thwart their plans of evil, hatched and nurtured in the foul darkness of the quags. She was buried deep; they had left no sign; who would know where to look for her?
Day after day passed by until the time of the New Moon was eagerly looked for by the good folk who dwelt around the marshes, for they knew they had no friend like the Moon, whose light enabled them to find the pathways through the bog-land, and drove away all the vile things into their dark holes and corners. So they put lucky pennies in their pouches and straws in their hats, and searched for the crescent Moon in the sky. But evening twilight brought no Moon, which was not strange, for she was buried deep in the bog.
The nights were pitch dark, and the Horrors held frolic in the marshes and swarmed abroad in ever-increasing numbers, so that no traveller was safe. The poor people were so frightened and dumbfounded at being forsaken by the friendly Moon, that some of them went to the old Wise Woman of the Mill and besought her to find out what was the matter.
The Wise Woman gazed long into her magic mirror, and then made a brew of herbs, into which she looked just as long, muttering words that nobody but herself could understand.
‘It’s very strange,’ she said at last; ‘but there’s nought to say what has become of her. I’ll look again later on; meantime if ye do learn anything, let me know.’
So they went away more mystified than ever, and, as the following nights brought no Moon, they could do nothing but stand about in groups in the streets discussing the strange thing. The disappearance of the Moon was the one topic. By the fireside, at the work-bench, in the inn and all about, their tongues went nineteen to the dozen; and no wonder, for who had ever heard of the Moon being lost, stolen or strayed?
But it chanced one day that a man from the other side of the marshes was sitting in the inn, smoking his pipe and listening to the talk of the other inmates, when all of a sudden he sat bolt upright, slapped his thigh and cried out, ‘I’ fegs! Now I mind where that there Moon be!’
Then he told them how one night he had got lost in the marshes and was frightened to death; how he went blundering on in the dark with all the Evil Things after him, and, at last, how a great bright light burst out of a pool and showed him the way to go.
When they heard this they all took the shortest cut to the Wise Woman, and told her the man’s story. After a long look in the mirror and the pot, she wagged her head slowly and said, ‘It’s all dark, children. You see, being as there’s no Moon to conjure by, I can’t tell ye where she’s gone or what’s made off with her–which same I could tell ye fine if she was in her right place. But mebbe, if ye do what I’m going to tell ye, then ye may hap on her yourselves. Listen now! Just before the darklings come, each of ye take a stone in your mouth and a twig of the witch-hazel in your hands, and go into the marshes without fear. Speak no word, for fear of your lives, but keep straight on till ye come to a spot where ye’ll see a coffin with a cross and a candle on it. That’s where ye’ll find your Moon, I’m thinking, if ye’re lucky.
So the next night as the dark began to fall they all trooped out into the marshes, each with a stone in his mouth and a twig of the witch-hazel in his hands. Never a word they spoke, but kept straight on; and, I’m telling you, there was not one among them but had the creeps and the starts. They could see nothing around them but bogs and pools and snags; but strange sighing whispers brushed past their ears, and cold wet hands sought theirs and tugged at the hazel twigs. But all at once, while looking everywhere for the coffin with the cross and the candle, they espied the big, strange stone, and it looked just like a coffin; while at the head of it was a black cross formed by the branches of the snag, and on this cross flickered a tiny light just like a candle.
When they saw these things they all knew that what the Wise Woman had told them was true: they were not far from their beloved Moon. But, being mighty feared of Bogles and the other Evil Things, they all went down on their knees in the mud and said the Lord’s Prayer, once forwards, in keeping with the cross, and once backwards to keep off the Horrors of the Darkness. All this they said in their minds, without saying a word aloud, for they well knew what would happen to them if they neglected the Wise Woman’s advice.
Then they rose up and laid hands on the great stone and heaved it up. And my Granny says, that as they did it, some of them saw, just for one tiddy-widdy little waste of a minute, the most beautiful face in the world gazing up at them with wistful eyes like–like–I really can’t remember how my Granny described them, but it was either ‘pools of gratitude’ or ‘lakes of love.’ At all events, this is exactly what happened when the stone was rolled right over, and it was said so quickly that not one of them could describe it afterwards: ‘Thanks, brave folk! I shall never forget your kindness,’ as the Moon stepped up out of the black pool into her place in the sky.
Then they were all astonished beyond words, for, suddenly, all around was the silver light, making the safe ways between the bogs as clear as day. There was a sudden rush of weird things to their lairs, and then all was still and bright. Looking up, they saw with delight the full Moon sailing in the sky and smiling down upon them. She was there to light them home again. She was there to stampede the Evil Things–the Bogles and the Bad Little People–back into their vile dens. And, as the people looked around and wondered, it almost seemed to them that this time she had killed the Horrors dead–never to come to life again.
There was once a little farmer and his wife living near Coolgarrow. They had three children, and my story happened while the youngest was a baby. The wife was a good wife enough, but her mind was all on her family and her farm, and she hardly ever went to her knees without falling asleep, and she thought the time spent in the chapel was twice as long as it need be. So, friends, she let her man and her two children go before her one day to Mass, while she called to consult a fairy man about a disorder one of her cows had. She was late at the chapel, and was sorry all the day after, for her husband was in grief about it, and she was very fond of him.
Late that night he was wakened up by the cries of his children calling out ‘Mother! Mother!’ When he sat up and rubbed his eyes, there was no wife by his side, and when he asked the little ones what was become of their mother, they said they saw the room full of nice little men and women, dressed in white and red and green, and their mother in the middle of them, going out by the door as if she was walking in her sleep. Out he ran, and searched everywhere round the house but, neither tale nor tidings did he get of her for many a day.
Well, the poor man was miserable enough, for he was as fond of his woman as she was of him. It used to bring the salt tears down his cheeks to see his poor children neglected and dirty, as they often were, and they’d be bad enough only for a kind neighbour that used to look in whenever she could spare time. The infant was away with a nurse.
About six weeks after–just as he was going out to his work one morning–a neighbour, that used to mind women when they were ill, came up to him, and kept step by step with him to the field, and this is what she told him.
‘Just as I was falling asleep last night, I heard a horse’s tramp on the grass and a knock at the door, and there, when I came out, was a fine-looking dark man, mounted on a black horse, and he told me to get ready in all haste, for a lady was in great want of me. As soon as I put on my cloak and things, he took me by the hand, and I was sitting behind him before I felt myself stirring. “Where are we going, sir?” says I. “You’ll soon know,” says he; and he drew his fingers across my eyes, and not a ray could I see. I kept a tight grip of him, and I little knew whether he was going backwards or forwards, or how long we were about it, till my hand was taken again, and I felt the ground under me. The fingers went the other way across my eyes, and there we were before a castle door, and in we went through a big hall and great rooms all painted in fine green colours, with red and gold bands and ornaments, and the finest carpets and chairs and tables and window curtains, and grand ladies and gentlemen walking about. At last we came to a bedroom, with a beautiful lady in bed, with a fine bouncing boy beside her. The lady clapped her hands, and in came the Dark Man and kissed her and the baby, and praised me, and gave me a bottle of green ointment to rub the child all over.
‘Well, the child I rubbed, sure enough; but my right eye began to smart, and I put up my finger and gave it a rub, and then stared, for never in all my life was I so frightened. The beautiful room was a big, rough cave, with water oozing over the edges of the stones and through the clay; and the lady, and the lord, and the child weazened, poverty-bitten creatures–nothing but skin and bone–and the rich dresses were old rags. I didn’t let on that I found any difference, and after a bit says the Dark Man, “Go before me to the hall door, and I will be with you in a few moments, and see you safe home.” Well, just as I turned into the outside cave, who should I see watching near the door but poor Molly. She looked round all terrified, and says she to me in a whisper, “I’m brought here to nurse the child of the king and queen of the fairies; but there is one chance of saving me. All the court will pass the cross near Templeshambo next Friday night, on a visit to the fairies of Old Ross. If John can catch me by the hand or cloak when I ride by, and has courage not to let go his grip, I’ll be safe. Here’s the king. Don’t open your mouth to answer. I saw what happened with the ointment.”
‘The Dark Man didn’t once cast his eye towards Molly, and he seemed to have no suspicion of me. When we came out I looked about me, and where do you think we were but in the dyke of the Rath of Cromogue. I was on the horse again, which was nothing but a big rag-weed, and I was in dread every minute I’d fall off; but nothing happened till I found myself in my own cabin. The king slipped five guineas into my hand as soon as I was on the ground, and thanked me, and bade me good night. I hope I’ll never see his face again. I got into bed, and couldn’t sleep for a long time; and when I examined my five guineas this morning, that I left in the table drawer the last thing, I found five withered leaves of oak–bad luck to the giver!’
Well, you may all think the fright, and the joy, and the grief the poor man was in when the woman finished her story. They talked and they talked, but we needn’t mind what they said till Friday night came, when both were standing where the mountain road crosses the one going to Ross.
There they stood, looking towards the bridge of Thuar, in the dead of the night, with a little moonlight shining from over Kilachdiarmid. At last she gave a start, and “By this and by that,” says she, “here they come, bridles jingling and feathers tossing!” He looked, but could see nothing; and she stood trembling and her eyes wide open, looking down the way to the ford of Ballinacoola. “I see your wife,” says she, “riding on the outside just so as to rub against us. We’ll walk on quietly, as if we suspected nothing, and when we are passing I’ll give you a shove. If you don’t do YOUR duty then, woe be with you!”
Well, they walked on easy, and the poor hearts beating in both their breasts; and though he could see nothing, he heard a faint jingle and trampling and rustling, and at last he got the push that she promised. He spread out his arms, and there was his wife’s waist within them, and he could see her plain; but such a hullabulloo rose as if there was an earthquake, and he found himself surrounded by horrible-looking things, roaring at him and striving to pull his wife away. But he made the sign of the cross and bid them begone in God’s name, and held his wife as if it was iron his arms were made of. Bedad, in one moment everything was as silent as the grave, and the poor woman lying in a faint in the arms of her husband and her good neighbour. Well, all in good time she was minding her family and her business again; and I’ll go bail, after the fright she got, she spent more time on her knees, and avoided fairy men all the days of the week, and particularly on Sunday.
It is hard to have anything to do with the good people without getting a mark from them. My brave nurse didn’t escape no more than another. She was one Thursday at the market of Enniscorthy, when what did she see walking among the tubs of butter but the Dark Man, very hungry-looking, and taking a scoop out of one tub and out of another. ‘Oh, sir,’ says she, very foolish, ‘I hope your lady is well, and the baby.’ ‘Pretty well, thank you,’ says he, rather frightened like. ‘How do I look in this new suit?’ says he, getting to one side of her. ‘I can’t see you plain at all, sir,’ says she. ‘Well, now?’ says he, getting round her back to the other side. ‘Musha, indeed, sir, your coat looks no better than a withered dock-leaf.’ ‘Maybe, then,’ says he, ‘it will be different now,’ and he struck the eye next him with a switch. Friends, she never saw a glimmer after with that one till the day of her death.
Once upon a time, and a very good time it was, though it wasn’t in my time, nor in your time, nor any one else’s time, there was a girl whose mother had died, and her father had married again. And her stepmother hated her because she was more beautiful than herself, and she was very cruel to her. She used to make her do all the servant’s work, and never let her have any peace. At last, one day, the stepmother thought to get rid of her altogether; so she handed her a sieve and said to her: “Go, fill it at the Well of the World’s End and bring it home to me full, or woe betide you.” For she thought she would never be able to find the Well of the World’s End, and, if she did, how could she bring home a sieve full of water?
Well, the girl started off, and asked every one she met to tell her where was the Well of the World’s End. But nobody knew, and she didn’t know what to do, when a queer little old woman, all bent double, told her where it was, and how she could get to it. So she did what the old woman told her, and at last arrived at the Well of the World’s End. But when she dipped the sieve in the cold, cold water, it all ran out again. She tried and she tried again, but every time it was the same; and at last she sate down and cried as if her heart would break.
Suddenly she heard a croaking voice, and she looked up and saw a great frog with goggle eyes looking at her and speaking to her.
“What’s the matter, dearie?” it said.
“Oh, dear, oh dear,” she said, “my stepmother has sent me all this long way to fill this sieve with water from the Well of the World’s End, and I can’t fill it no how at all.”
“Well,” said the frog, “if you promise me to do whatever I bid you for a whole night long, I’ll tell you how to fill it.”
So the girl agreed, and then the frog said:
“Stop it with moss and daub it with clay, And then it will carry the water away;”
and then it gave a hop, skip and jump, and went flop into the Well of the World’s End.
So the girl looked about for some moss, and lined the bottom of the sieve with it, and over that she put some clay, and then she dipped it once again into the Well of the World’s End; and this time, the water didn’t run out, and she turned to go away.
Just then the frog popped up its head out of the Well of the World’s End, and said: “Remember your promise.”
“All right,” said the girl; for thought she, “what harm can a frog do me?”
So she went back to her stepmother, and brought the sieve full of water from the Well of the World’s End. The stepmother was fine and angry, but she said nothing at all.
That very evening they heard something tap tapping at the door low down, and a voice cried out:
“Open the door, my hinny, my heart, Open the door, my own darling; Mind you the words that you and I spoke, Down in the meadow, at the World’s End Well.”
“Whatever can that be?” cried out the stepmother, and the girl had to tell her all about it, and what she had promised the frog.
“Girls must keep their promises,” said the stepmother. “Go and open the door this instant.” For she was glad the girl would have to obey a nasty frog.
So the girl went and opened the door, and there was the frog from the Well of the World’s End. And it hopped, and it skipped, and it jumped, till it reached the girl, and then it said:
“Lift me to your knee, my hinny, my heart; Lift me to your knee, my own darling; Remember the words you and I spoke, Down in the meadow by the World’s End Well.”
But the girl didn’t like to, till her stepmother said “Lift it up this instant, you hussy! Girls must keep their promises!”
So at last she lifted the frog up on to her lap, and it lay there for a time, till at last it said:
“Give me some supper, my hinny, my heart, Give me some supper, my darling; Remember the words you and I spake, In the meadow, by the Well of the World’s End.”
Well, she didn’t mind doing that, so she got it a bowl of milk and bread, and fed it well. And when the frog, had finished, it said:
“Go with me to bed, my hinny, my heart, Go with me to bed, my own darling; Mind you the words you spake to me, Down by the cold well, so weary.”
But that the girl wouldn’t do, till her stepmother said: “Do what you promised, girl; girls must keep their promises. Do what you’re bid, or out you go, you and your froggie.”
So the girl took the frog with her to bed, and kept it as far away from her as she could. Well, just as the day was beginning to break what should the frog say but:
“Chop off my head, my hinny, my heart, Chop off my head, my own darling; Remember the promise you made to me, Down by the cold well so weary.”
At first the girl wouldn’t, for she thought of what the frog had done for her at the Well of the World’s End. But when the frog said the words over again, she went and took an axe and chopped off its head, and lo! and behold, there stood before her a handsome young prince, who told her that he had been enchanted by a wicked magician, and he could never be unspelled till some girl would do his bidding for a whole night, and chop off his head at the end of it.
The stepmother was that surprised when she found the young prince instead of the nasty frog, and she wasn’t best pleased, you may be sure, when the prince told her that he was going to marry her stepdaughter because she had unspelled him. So they were married and went away to live in the castle of the king, his father, and all the stepmother had to console her was, that it was all through her that her stepdaughter was married to a prince.
He who is born a prince should not act like a beggar boy. The man who is high in rank ought not to set a bad example to those below him; for the little donkey learns from the big one to eat straw. It is no wonder, therefore, that Heaven sends him troubles by bushels–as happened to a prince who was brought into great difficulties for ill-treating and tormenting a poor woman, so that he was near losing his life miserably.
ABOUT eight miles from Naples there was once a deep wood of fig-trees and poplars. In this wood stood a half-ruined cottage, wherein dwelt an old woman, who was as light of teeth as she was burdened with years. She had a hundred wrinkles in her face, and a great many more in her purse, and all her silver covered her head, so that she went from one thatched cottage to another, begging alms to keep life in her. But as folks nowadays much rather give a purseful of crowns to a crafty spy than a farthing to a poor needy man, she had to toil a whole day to get a dish of kidney-beans, and that at a time when they were very plentiful. Now one day the poor old woman, after having washed the beans, put them in a pot, placed it outside the window, and went on her way to the wood to
gather sticks for the fire. But while she was away, Nardo Aniello, the King’s son, passed by the cottage on his way to the chase; and, seeing the pot at the window, he took a great fancy to have a fling at it; and he made a bet with his attendants to see who should fling the straightest and hit in the middle with a stone. Then they began to throw at the innocent pot; and in three or four casts the prince hit it to a hair and won the bet.
The old woman returned just after they had gone away, and seeing the sad disaster, she began to act as if she were beside herself, crying, “Ay, let him stretch out his arm and go about boasting how he has broken this pot! The villainous rascal who has sown my beans out of season. If he had no compassion for my misery, he should have had some regard for his own interest; for I pray Heaven, on my bare knees and from the bottom of my soul, that he may fall in love with the daughter of some ogress, who may plague and torment him in every way. May his mother-in-law lay on him such a curse that he may see himself living and yet bewail himself as dead; and being spellbound by the beauty of the daughter, and the arts of the mother, may he never be able to escape, but be obliged to remain. May she order him about with a cudgel in her
hand, and give him bread with a little fork, that he may have good cause to lament over my beans which he has spilt on the ground.” The old woman’s curses took wing and flew up to Heaven in a trice; so that, notwithstanding what a proverb says, “for a woman’s curse you are never the worse, and the coat of a horse that has been cursed always shines,” she rated the Prince so soundly that he well-nigh jumped out of his skin.
Scarcely had two hours passed when the Prince, losing himself in the wood and parted from his attendants, met a beautiful maiden, who was going along picking up snails and saying with a laugh–
“Snail, snail, put out your horn,
Your mother is laughing you to scorn,
For she has a little son just born.”
When the Prince saw this beautiful apparition he knew not what had befallen him; and, as the beams from the eyes of that crystal face fell upon the tinder of his heart, he was all in a flame, so that he became a lime-kiln wherein the stones of designs were burnt to build the houses of hopes.
Now Filadoro (for so the maiden was named) was no wiser than other people; and the Prince, being a smart young fellow with handsome moustachios, pierced her heart through and through, so that they stood looking at one another for compassion with their eyes, which proclaimed aloud the secret of their souls. After they had both remained thus for a long time, unable to utter a single word, the Prince at last, finding his voice, addressed Filadoro thus, “From what meadow has this flower of beauty sprung? From what mine has this treasure of beauteous things come to light? O happy woods, O fortunate groves, which this nobility inhabits, which this illumination of the festivals of love irradiates.”
“Kiss this hand, my lord,” answered Filadoro, “not so much modesty; for all the praise that you have bestowed on me belongs to your virtues, not to my merits. Such as I am, handsome or ugly, fat or thin, a witch or a fairy, I am wholly at your command; for your manly form has captivated my heart, your princely mien has pierced me through from side to side, and from this moment I give myself up to you for ever as a chained slave.”
At these words the Prince seized at once her hand, kissing the ivory hook that had caught his heart. At this ceremony of the prince, Filadoro’s face grew as red as scarlet. But the more Nardo Aniello wished to continue speaking, the more his tongue seemed tied; for in this wretched life there is no wine of enjoyment without dregs of vexation. And just at this moment Filadoro’s mother suddenly appeared, who was such an ugly ogress that Nature seemed to have formed her as a model of horrors. Her hair was like a besom of holly; her forehead like a rough stone; her
eyes were comets that predicted all sorts of evils; her mouth had tusks like a boar’s–in short, from head to foot she was ugly beyond imagination. Now she seized Nardo Aniello by the nape of his neck, saying, “Hollo! what now, you thief! you rogue!”
“Yourself the rogue,” replied the Prince, “back with you, old hag!” And he was just going to draw his sword, when all at once he stood fixed like a sheep that has seen the wolf and can neither stir nor utter a sound, so that the ogress led him like an ass by the halter to her house. And when they came there she said to him, “Mind, now, and work like a dog, unless you wish to die like a dog. For your first task to-day you must have this acre of land dug and sown level as this room; and recollect that if I return in the evening and do not find the work finished, I shall eat you up.” Then, bidding her daughter take care of the house, she went to a meeting of the other ogresses in the wood.
Nardo Aniello, seeing himself in this dilemma, began to bathe his breast with tears, cursing his fate which brought him to this pass. But Filadoro comforted him, bidding him be of good heart, for she would ever risk her life to assist him. She said that she ought not to lament his fate which had led him to the house where she lived, who loved him so dearly, and that he showed little return for her love by being so despairing at what had happened. The Prince replied: “I am not grieved at having exchanged the royal palace for this hovel; splendid banquets for a crust of bread; a sceptre for a spade; not at seeing myself, who have terrified armies, now
frightened by this hideous scarecrow; for I should deem all my disasters good fortune to be with you and to gaze upon you with these eyes. But what pains me to the heart is that I have to dig till my hands are covered with hard skin–I whose fingers are so delicate and soft as Barbary wool; and, what is still worse, I have to do more than two oxen could get through in a day. If I do not finish the task this evening your mother will eat me up; yet I should not grieve so much to quit this wretched body as to be parted from so beautiful a creature.”
So saying he heaved sighs by bushels, and shed many tears. But Filadoro, drying his eyes, said to him, “Fear not that my mother will touch a hair of your head. Trust to me and do not be afraid; for you must know that I possess magical powers, and am able to make cream set on water and to darken the sun. Be of good heart, for by the evening the piece of land will be dug and sown without any one stirring a hand.”
When Nardo Aniello heard this, he answered, “If you have magic power, as you say, O beauty of the world, why do we not fly from this country? For you shall live like a queen in my father’s house.” And Filadoro replied, “A certain conjunction of the stars prevents this, but the trouble will soon pass and we shall be happy.”
With these and a thousand other pleasant discourses the day passed, and when the ogress came back she called to her daughter from the road and said, “Filadoro, let down your hair,” for as the house had no staircase she always ascended by her daughter’s tresses. As soon as Filadoro heard her mother’s voice she unbound her hair and let fall her tresses, making a golden ladder to an iron heart. Whereupon the old woman mounted up quickly, and ran into the garden; but when she found it all dug and sown, she was beside herself with amazement; for it seemed to her impossible that a delicate lad should have accomplished such hard labour.
But the next morning, hardly had the Sun gone out to warm himself on account of the cold he had caught in the river of India, than the ogress went down again, bidding Nardo Aniello take care that in the evening she should find ready split six stacks of wood which were in the cellar, with every log cleft into four pieces, or otherwise she would cut him up like bacon and make a fry of him for supper.
On hearing this decree the poor Prince had liked to have died of terror, and Filadoro, seeing him half dead and pale as ashes, said, “Why! What a coward you are to be frightened at such a trifle.” “Do you think it a trifle,” replied Nardo Aniello, “to split six stacks of wood, with every log cleft into four pieces, between this time and the evening? Alas, I shall sooner be cleft in halves myself to fill the mouth of this horrid old woman.” “Fear not,” answered Filadoro, “for without giving yourself any trouble the wood shall all be split in good time. But meanwhile cheer up, if you love me, and do not split my heart with such lamentations.”
Now when the Sun had shut up the shop of his rays, in order not to sell light to the Shades, the old woman returned; and, bidding Filadoro let down the usual ladder, she ascended, and finding the wood already split she began to suspect it was her own daughter who had given her this check. At the third day, in order to make a third trial, she told the Prince to clean out for her a cistern which held a thousand casks of water, for she wished to fill it anew, adding that if the task were not finished by the evening she would make mincemeat of him. When the old woman went away Nardo Aniello began again to weep and wail; and Filadoro, seeing that the labours increased, and that the old woman had something of
the brute in her to burden the poor fellow with such tasks and troubles, said to him, “Be quiet, and as soon as the moment has passed that interrupts my art, before the Sun says I am off,’ we will say good-bye to this house; sure enough, this evening my mother shall find the land cleared, and I will go off with you, alive or dead.” The Prince, on hearing this news, embraced Filadoro and said, “Thou art the pole-star of this storm-tossed bark, my soul! Thou art the prop of my hopes.”
Now, when the evening drew nigh, Filadoro having dug a hole in the garden into a large underground passage, they went out and took the way to Naples. But when they arrived at the grotto of Pozzuolo, Nardo Aniello said to Filadoro, “It will never do for me to take you to the palace on foot and dressed in this manner. Therefore wait at this inn and I will soon return with horses, carriages, servants, and clothes.” So Filadoro stayed behind and the Prince went on his way to the city. Meantime the ogress returned home, and as Filadoro did not answer to her usual
summons, she grew suspicious, ran into the wood, and cutting a great, long pole, placed it against the window and climbed up like a cat. Then she went into the house and hunted everywhere inside and out, high and low, but found no one. At last she perceived the hole, and seeing that it led into the open air, in her rage she did not leave a hair upon her head, cursing her daughter and the Prince, and praying that at the first kiss Filadoro’s lover should receive he might forget her.
But let us leave the old woman to say her wicked curses and return to the Prince, who on arriving at the palace, where he was thought to be dead, put the whole house in an uproar, every one running to meet him and crying, “Welcome! welcome! Here he is, safe and sound, how happy we are to see him back in this country,” with a thousand other words of affection. But as he was going up the stairs his mother met him half-way and embraced and kissed him, saying, “My son, my jewel, the apple of my eye, where have you been and why have you stayed away so long to make us all die with anxiety?” The Prince knew not what to answer, for he did not wish to tell her of his misfortunes; but no sooner had his mother
kissed him than, owing to the curse, all that had passed went from his memory. Then the Queen told her son that to put an end to his going hunting and wasting his time in the woods, she wished him to get married. “Well and good,” replied the Prince, “I am ready and prepared to do what you desire.” So it was settled that within four days they should lead home to him the bride who had just arrived from the country of Flanders; and thereupon a great feasting and banquets were held.
But meanwhile Filadoro, seeing that her husband stayed away so long and hearing (I know not how) of the feast, waited in the evening till the servant-lad of the inn had gone to bed, and taking his clothes from the head of the bed, she left her own in their place, and disguising herself like a man, went to the court of the king, where the cooks, being in want of help, took her as kitchen boy. When the tables were set out and the guests all took their seats, and the dishes were set down and the carver was cutting up a large English pie which Filadoro had made with her own hands, lo, out flew such a beautiful dove that the guests in their
astonishment, forgetting to eat, fell to admiring the pretty bird, which said to the Prince in a piteous voice, “Have you so soon forgotten the love of Filadoro, and have all the services you received from her, ungrateful man, gone from your memory? Is it thus you repay the benefits she has done you: she who took you out of the claws of the ogress and gave you life and herself too? Woe to the woman who trusts too much to the words of man, who ever requites kindness with ingratitude, and pays debts with forgetfulness. But go, forget your promises, false man. And may the curses follow you which the unhappy maiden sends you from the bottom of her heart. But if the gods have not locked up their ears they will witness the wrong you have done her, and when you least expect it the lightning and thunder, fever and illness, will
come to you. Enough, eat and drink, take your sports, for unhappy Filadoro, deceived and forsaken, will leave you the field open to make merry with your new wife.”
So saying, the dove flew away quickly and vanished like the wind. The Prince, hearing the murmuring of the dove, stood for a while stupefied. At length, he inquired whence the pie came, and when the carver told him that a scullion boy who had been taken to assist in the kitchen had made it, he ordered him to be brought into the room. Then Filadoro, throwing herself at the feet of Nardo Aniello, shedding a torrent of tears, said merely, “What have I done to you?”
Whereupon the Prince at once recalled to mind the engagement he had made with her; and, instantly raising her up, seated her by his side, and when he related to his mother the great obligation he was under to this
beautiful maiden and all that she had done for him, and how it was
necessary that the promise he had given should be fulfilled, his mother, who had no other joy in life than her son, said to him, “Do as you please, so that you offend not this lady whom I have given you to wife.” “Be not troubled,” said the lady, “for, to tell the truth, I am very loth to remain in this country; with your kind permission I wish to return to my dear Flanders.” Thereupon the Prince with great joy offered her a vessel and attendants; and, ordering Filadoro to be dressed like a Princess, when the tables were removed, the musicians came and they began the ball which
lasted until evening.
So the feast being now ended, they all betook themselves to rest, and the Prince and Filadoro lived happily ever after, proving the truth of the proverb that–
“He who stumbles and does not fall,
Is helped on his way like a rolling ball.”