LIKE many others in the world, there was a gentleman and lady. They were very well off, but they could not keep any of their children. They had had ever so many, and all died. The lady was again in a hopeful condition. At the beginning of the night she was confined of a fine boy.
Two young men heard this news, and they said to each. other:
"We ought to have a feast; we must steal a sheep out of this house. They will not pay attention to us with all their bustle and their joy."
One of the lads then goes after eleven o'clock towards the house. He meets an old woman, who said to him:
"Where are you off to, lad? There is nothing like the truth."
"I was going, then, to such a house; the lady has been confined, and I wish to take advantage of it to steal a sheep. They will not pay any attention to-day. And you, where are you going.
"I too am going to the house. I am a witch, and it is I who have killed all their children."
"And how do you do that?"
"Easily. When the infant sneezes nobody says, 'Domine stekan,' 1 and then I become mistress of the child."
The witch enters, doubtless as she liked, much more easily than our lad; but nevertheless he got in himself too. He was busy choosing his sheep, when he bears the infant sneeze. He says very, very loudly:
"Domine stekan; even if I should not get my sheep."
They go to see who is there, and what he was saying. The lad relates what the old woman had told him. As you may imagine they thanked him well, and told him to choose
the finest sheep. The father and mother were delighted that they would save this child; but, poor wretches, they had not seen everything. A devil had come, who took their child and carried it to the roadside, and left it there. A coachman passing by sees this child, and takes it with him. He was married, but had no children. They had a great desire to have one. They were very well off also. His wife was delighted to see this fine child; they gave it a good nurse, and the child grew fast and became wonderfully handsome. The devil had placed himself in the child's cradle. This mother gave him suck, and, contrary to the other, he did not grow at all. The parents were vexed at having such a child; they did not know what to think of it. Their true child was more than extraordinarily clever. The coachman and his wife were dazed with joy, and they loved him as (if he were) their own child. When he was twelve years old, he said to his father and mother that he wished to become a monk. The coachman and his wife were very sorry, and they asked him to become only a priest. But after having seen his great desire they allow him to do as he wished.
He went away then, and at the age of eighteen years he was able to say mass. When he was there, one day two men were passing in front of the garden of his real father, and they began to quarrel. They got so enraged that one killed the other, and threw him into his father's garden. This father was tried and condemned to death for having killed this man.
While this young monk was saying mass, there comes to him a white pigeon and tells him what was taking place in his father's house, and that the pigeon will assume the form of the monk, "and you shall go off in my shape." The monk willingly does what he tells him, and arrives when they are leading his father to execution. He was being followed by the judges and by a crowd of people. He asks what he has done. They tell him that he has killed a man. He asks if they would do him a favour before they put him
to death-if they would accompany him to the grave of the man whom he has killed. They tell him, "Yes."
They all go off then. The monk has the grave opened, restores him to life, and asks him, pointing to his father:
"Is this the man who has killed you?"
The dead man says to him, "No!"
After having said that he dies again. The monk did not wish to know who had killed him; he knew all he wanted with that. The father wished to take the monk home with him to dinner, but he would not go that day. He said to him:
"I will come on such a day."
As you may fancy they made a splendid dinner; nothing was wanting there. They invited all their friends and acquaintances to rejoice with them. When the monk arrives, the lady, before sitting down to table, wished to show him her child, how she had suckled him with her own milk eighteen years, and that he did not grow at all, but was always just as he was when he was born. The monk betook himself to prayer, and he saw that which they believed to be a child fly away under the shape of a devil in fire and flame, and he carried off with him part of the house. He told his mother not to vex herself because she had had the devil there, and that she would be happier without such a child.
All the world was astonished at the power of this monk; but the mother was still grieved. The monk, to console her, told her his history; how he was her true child; how the devil had taken him and carried him to the roadside how he had been found and brought up by a coachman; and that it was he himself who had been made priest, and her son. All were astounded at his words. After they had well dined, the monk went back into his convent, and the father and mother lived honourably, as they did before; and as they lived well, they died well too.
73:1 This is, of course, only a mispronunciation of "Dominus tecum"--The Lord be with you." Compare the opposite effect of "God save Us," in Croker's tale of "Master and Man," pp. 96, 97.