ONCE upon a time, like many others in the world, there was a gentleman and a lady. They had no children, but they longed for one above everything. They made a vow to go to Rome. As soon as they had made the vow, the woman became pregnant.
The husband said to her, "We shall do well to go there at once."
The wife said, "We have not time enough now; we can go afterwards just as well."
The lady was confined of a boy. The boy grows up and he sees that his father is constantly sad, and he finds him often crying in all the corners. The little boy was now seven years old, and the mother had not yet decided to go to Rome. One day this young boy goes into his father's bed-room, and finds him weeping again. He therefore said to him:
"What is the matter with you, father?"
But he will not answer him, and the child takes a pistol, and says to his father:
"If you will not tell me what is the matter with you, I will shoot first you and myself afterwards."
The father then said that he would tell him, (and he told him) how that his mother and he had made a vow to go to Rome if they had a child, and that they had never been there.
The child said to him, "It is for me that this vow was made, and it is I who will go and fulfil it."
He says "Good-bye," and sets out.
He was seven years on the road, and begged his bread. At last he comes to the Holy Father, and tells him what has brought him there. Our Holy Father puts him in a room alone for an hour.
When he comes out, he says to him, "Oh, you have made a mistake; you have made me stay there two hours at least."
Our Holy Father tells him "No!"--that he has been there only one hour. And he puts him into another room for two hours.
When he came out from there he said, "You have made me stop more than two hours."
He says to him, "No," and puts him in another room for three hours.
When he came out of that he said, "You have only left me there three minutes."
And he said to him, "Yes, yes, yes; you have been there three hours."
And our Holy Father told him that the first room was Hell; that the second was Purgatory; and that the last was Heaven. 1
The child says to him, "Where am I? I in Paradise! And my father?"
"In Paradise too."
"And my mother?"
The boy was grieved, and said to him, "Can I not save my mother? I would let my blood flow for her for seven years long."
Our Holy Father tells him that he can, and he puts on him a hair-cloth shirt with a padlock, and throws the key into the water.
And our Holy Father says to him, "When you shall find this key, your mother will be saved."
He starts off, begging his way as before, and takes seven more years before arriving in his own country. He goes from house to house asking alms. His father meets him and asks him where he comes from. He says, "From Rome." He asks him if he has not seen on the road a boy of his own age. He says to him, "Yes, yes," and tells him that he has gone on walking for seven years, shedding his blood, to save his mother. And he keeps on talking about his son. His mother comes out on the staircase and tells her husband to send that poor man away--that he must be off from there. But he pays no attention to her. He brings him in, and tells her that he is going to dine with them. His wife is not pleased. He sends the servant to market, telling her to buy the finest fish that she can find. When the young girl comes back, she goes to the poultry yard to clean the fish. The young man follows her, and as she was cleaning the fish she found a key inside it.
The young man said to her, "That key belongs to me."
And she gives it to him.
The lady could not endure this young man, and she gives him a push, and he falls into the well. All on a sudden the water of the well overflows, and the young man comes out all dripping. The husband had not seen that his wife had pushed him into the well, and the young man told him that he had fallen into it. This poor man wishes to give him some clothes, but he will not accept them, saying that he will dry himself at the fire. At table the lady is not at all
polite to him. The young man asks her if she would recognise her son.
She says, "Yes, yes; he has a mark between his two breasts."
And the young man opens his clothes, and shows the mark. At the same time he gives the key to his mother that she may open his hair-cloth shirt, and the mother sees nothing but blood and gore. He has suffered for her. The three die. And the servant sees three white doves fly away. I wish I could do like them in the same way.
GACHINA, the Net-maker.
207:1 The idea of this incident is not confined to Christianity; a similar story is told of a Mahommedan saint, and a caliph or king. The scene of the story is Cairo.