ONCE upon a time there were two brothers, the one an idiot, and the other a fool. They had an old mother, old, old, very old. One morning early the elder arranges to go with his sheep to the mountain, and he leaves the fool at home with his old, old, mother, and said to him:
"I will give my mother some chocolate now, and you will give her a hot bath (afterwards), quite, quite, hot."
He goes to the mountain with his sheep. The second son put the water on to boil, and said to his mother:
"My mother, the water is hot, what bath would you like?" 1
She says to him:
"A bath with wood-ashes."
And he carries it to the bed while it is boiling; and as she did not get up, he said to her:
"Would you like a little broth?" And she said "Yes."
"My mother, get up quickly!" and she did not get up.
He takes her, and puts her himself into this boiling water, so that he boiled his poor mother. And he said to her,
"My mother, get up again; the water is not cold."
She did not answer. The night comes, and the other brother returns from the mountains, and says to him
"How is our mother?"
"Have you given her the bath?"
"Yes; but she is still there, and she is asleep in her bath."
"Go and see if she is still asleep."
He goes, and says, "No, no; she is laughing--she keeps on laughing."
The other brother goes there, and perceives that their mother is quite dead. He did not know what to do. They both go into the garden, and there they make a great hole and bury her.
They then burn the house, go into the woods, see the witches, cure the king's daughter, whom one of them marries, and they live happily. 1
It is possible that this first part may be a narrative of fact. We knew at Asté, near Bagnères de Bigorre, a brother, an idiot "crétin," who deliberately began to chop up his sister (also an idiot and "crétin"), who offered no resistance. He had chopped off several of her fingers, when they were accidentally interrupted. In spite of the blood and pain, she was only laughing at it.
We have another tale of this kind, which may be also founded on fact, so sad is often the condition of the crétins
in the mountains. It is of a mother and her imbecile son; he nearly kills himself by chopping off the branch of the tree on which he was sitting. Then he believes himself dead, and commits various other follies. His mother thinks a wife might be able to take care of him, and tells him to cast sheeps' eyes at the young girls coming out of church after mass. He takes this literally, cuts out the eyes of all their flock, and so kills their sheep, the only thing they had, and throws these at the girls, who are disgusted, and quarrel with him. He goes home, and mother and son end their lives together in wretchedness.
67:1 That is, one with bran, or herbs, wood-ashes, &c., or plain water.
68:1 M. Cerquand gives this tale at length, Part II., pp. 10, 11. The incidents are very slightly changed.