I HAVE entitled this chapter 'World-Tales' to indicate that the stories it contains are in plot or motif if not in substance common to the whole world--that, in short, although they are found in Brittany, they are no more Breton than Italian, Russian, American, or Australian. But although the story which tells of the search for the golden-haired princess on the magic horse is the possession of no one particular race, the tales recounted here have the Breton colouring and the Breton spirit, and in perusing them we encounter numerous little allusions to Breton customs or manners and obtain not a few sidelights upon the Breton character, its shrewdness and its goodwill, while we may note as well the narrowness of view and meanness so characteristic of peoples who have been isolated for a long period from contact with other races.
The first two of these tales are striking ones built upon two world-motifs--those of the magic horse and the search for the golden-haired princess, who is, of course, the sun, two themes which have been amalgamated in not a few deathless stories.
One day the Marquis of Coat-Squiriou was returning from Morlaix, when he beheld lying on the road a little fellow of four or five years of age. He leapt from his horse, picked the child up, and asked him what he did there.
"I do not know," replied the little boy.
"Who is your father?" asked the Marquis.
"I do not know," said the child for the second time.
"And your mother?" asked the kindly nobleman.
"I do not know."
"Where are you now, my child?"
"I do not know."
"Then what is your name?"
"I do not know."
The Marquis told his serving-man to place the child on the crupper of his horse, as he had taken a fancy to him and would adopt him. He called him NOun Doare, which signifies in Breton, 'I do not know.' He educated him, and when his schooling was finished took him to Morlaix, where they put up at the best inn in the town. The Marquis could not help admiring his adopted son, who had now grown into a tall, handsome youth, and so pleased was he with him that he desired to signify his approval by making him a little present, which he resolved should take the form of a sword. So they went out into the town and visited the armourers' shops in search of a suitable weapon. They saw swords of all kinds, but NOun Doare would have none of them, until at last they passed the booth of a seller of scrap-metal, where hung a rusty old rapier which seemed fit for nothing.
"Ha!" cried NOun Doare, "that is the sword for me. Please, buy it, I beg of you."
"Why, don't you see what a condition it is in?" said the Marquis. "It is not a fit weapon for a gentleman." "Nevertheless it is the only sword I wish for," said NOun Doare.
"Well, well, you are a strange fellow," said the Marquis, but he bought the sword nevertheless, and they returned to Coat-Squiriou. The next day NOun Doare examined
his sword and discovered that the blade had the words "I am invincible" engraved upon it.
Some time afterward the Marquis said to him: "It is time that you had a horse. Come with me to Morlaix and we will purchase one." They accordingly set out for Morlaix. In the market-place they saw many fine animals, but with none of them was NOun Doare content. On returning to the inn, however, he espied what looked like, a broken-down mare standing by the roadside, and to this sorry beast he immediately drew the attention of the Marquis.
"That is the horse for me!" he cried. "I beg of you, purchase it for me."
"What!" cried the Marquis, "that broken-down beast? Why, only look at it, my son." But NOun Doare persisted, and at last, despite his own better judgment, the Marquis bought the animal. The man who sold it was a cunning-looking fellow from Cornouaille, who, as he put the bridle into NOun Doare's hand, whispered: "You see the knots on the halter of this animal?"
"Yes," replied NOun Doare; "what of them?"
"Only this, that each time you loosen one the mare will immediately carry you five hundred leagues from where you are."
The Marquis and his ward returned once more to the château, NOun Doare riding his new purchase, when it entered into his head to untie one of the knots on the halter. He did so, and immediately descended in the middle of Paris--which we must take the story-teller's word for it is five hundred leagues from Brittany! Several months afterward the Marquis had occasion, to go to Paris, and one of the first people he met there was NOun Doare, who told him of his adventure.
The Marquis was going to visit the King, and took his protégé along with him to the palace, where he was well received.
Some nights afterward the youth was walking with his old mare outside the walls of Paris, and noticed something which glittered very brightly at the foot of an ancient stone cross which stood where four roads met. He approached it and beheld a crown of gold, set with the most brilliant precious stones. He at once picked it up, when the old mare, turning its head, said to him: "Take care; you will repent this."
Greatly surprised, NOun Doare thought that he had better replace the crown, but a longing to possess it overcame him, and although the mare warned him once more he finally resolved to take it, and, putting it under his mantle, rode away.
Now the King had confided to his care part of the royal stables, and when NOun Doare entered them their darkness was immediately lit up by the radiance of the crown which he carried. So well had the Breton lad attended to the horses under his charge that the other squires had become jealous, and, observing the strange light in NOun Doare's part of the stable, they mentioned it to the King, who in turn spoke of it to the Marquis of Coat-Squiriou. The Marquis asked NOun Doare the meaning of the light, and the youth replied that it came from the ancient sword they had bought at Morlaix, which was an enchanted weapon and shone at intervals with strange brilliance. But one night his enemies resolved to examine into the matter more closely, and, looking through the keyhole of the stable, they saw that the wondrous light which had so puzzled them shone from a magnificent crown of gold. They ran at once to
tell the King, and, next night NOun Doare's stable was opened with a master-key and the crown removed to the King's quarters. It was then seen that an inscription was engraved upon the diadem, but in such strange characters that no one could read it. The magicians of the capital were called into consultation, but none of them could decipher the writing. At last a little boy of seven years of age was found who said that it was the crown of the Princess Golden Bell. The King then called upon NOun Doare to approach, and said to him: "You should not have hidden this thing from me, but as you are guilty of having, done so I doom you to find the Princess Golden Bell, whom I desire shall become my wife. If you fail I shall put you to death."
NOun Doare left the royal presence in a very perturbed state of mind. He went to seek his old mare with tears in his eyes.
"I know," said the mare, "the cause of your sorrow. You should have left the golden crown alone, as I told you. But do not repine; go to the King and ask him for money for your journey."
The lad received the money from the King, and set out on his journey. Arriving at the sea-shore, one of the first objects he beheld was a little fish cast up by the waves on the beach and almost at its last gasp.
"Throw that fish back into the water," said the mare. NOun Doare did so, and the fish, lifting its head from the water, said:
"You have saved my life, NOun Doare. I am the King of the Fishes, and if ever you require my help call my name by the sea-shore and I will come." With these words the Fish-King vanished beneath the water.
A little later they came upon a bird struggling vainly to escape from a net in which it was caught.
"Cut the net and set that poor bird free," said the wise mare.
Upon NOun Doare doing so the bird paused before it flew away and said:
"I am the King of the Birds, NOun Doare. I will never forget the service you have rendered me, and if ever you are in trouble and need my aid you have only to call me and I shall fly swiftly to help you."
As they went on their way NOun Doare's wonderful mare crossed mountains, forests, vast seas, and streams with a swiftness and case that was amazing. Soon they beheld the walls of the Château of the Golden Bell rising before them, and as they drew near they could hear a most confused and terrible noise coming from it, which shook NOun Doare's courage and made him rather fearful of entering it. Near the door a being of the most curious aspect was hung to a tree by a chain, and this peculiar individual had as many horns on his body as there are days in the year.
"Cut that unfortunate man down," said the mare. "Will you not give him his freedom?"
"I am too much afraid to approach him," said NOun Doare, alarmed at the man's appearance.
"Do not fear," said the sagacious animal he will not harm you in any manner."
NOun Doare did so, and the stranger thanked him most gratefully, bidding him, as the others whom he had rescued had done, if he ever required help to call upon Grifescorne, King of the Demons, for that was his name, and he would be with him immediately.
Enter the château boldly and without fear," said the
mare, "and I will await you in the wood yonder. After the Princess Golden Bell has welcomed you she will show you all the curiosities and marvels of her dwelling. Tell her you have a horse without an equal, which can dance most beautifully the dances of every land. Say that your steed will perform them for her diversion if she will come and behold it in the forest."
Everything fell out as the mare had said, and the Princess was delighted and amused by the mare's dancing.
"If you were to mount her," said NOun Doare, "I vow she would dance even more wonderfully than before!"
The Princess after a moment's hesitation did so. In an instant the adventurous youth was by her side, and the horse sped through the air, so that in a short space they found themselves flying over the sea.
"You have tricked me!" cried the infuriated damsel. "But do not imagine that you are at the end of your troubles; and," she added viciously, "you will have cause to lament more than once ere I wed the old King of France."
They arrived promptly at Paris, where NOun Doare presented the lovely Princess to the monarch, saying:
"Sire, I have brought to you the Princess Golden Bell, whom you desire to make your wife."
The King was dazed by the wondrous beauty of the Princess, and was eager for the marriage to take place immediately, but this the royal maiden would not hear of, and declared petulantly that she would not be wed until she had a ring which she had left behind her at her château, in a cabinet of which she had lost the key.
Summoning NOun Doare, the King charged him with
Click to enlarge
NOUN DOARE AND THE PRINCESS GOLDEN BELL
the task of finding the ring. The unfortunate youth returned to his wise mare, feeling much cast down.
"Why," said the mare, "foolish one! do you not remember the King of the Birds whom you rescued? Call upon him, and mayhap he will aid you as he promised to do."
With a return of hope NOun Doare did as he was bid, and immediately the royal bird was with him, and asked him in what way he could help him. Upon NOun Doare explaining his difficulty, the Bird-King summoned all his subjects, calling each one by name. They came, but none of them appeared to be small enough to enter the cabinet by way of the keyhole, which was the only means of entrance. The wren was decided to be the only bird with any chance of success, and he set out for the château.
Eventually, with much difficulty and the loss of the greater part of his feathers, the bird procured the ring, and flew back with it to Paris. NOun Doare hastened to present the ring to the Princess.
"Now, fair one," said the impatient King, "why delay our wedding longer?"
"Nay," said she, pouting discontentedly, "there is one thing that I wish, and without it I will do nothing."
"What do you desire? You have only to speak and it shall be brought."
"Well, transport my château with all it contains opposite to yours."
"What!" cried the King, aghast. "Impossible!"
"Well, then, it is just as impossible that I should marry you, for without my château I shall not consent."
For a second time the King gave NOun Doare what seemed an insurmountable task.
"Now indeed I am as good as lost!" lamented the youth as they came to the château and he saw its massive walls towering above him.
"Call Grifescorne, King of the Demons, to your assistance," suggested the wise mare.
With the aid of the Demon-King and his subjects NOun Doare's task was again accomplished, and he and his mare followed the demon army to Paris, where they arrived as soon as it did.
In the morning the people of Paris were struck dumb to see a wonderful palace, its golden towers flashing in the sun, rising opposite to the royal residence.
"We shall be married at last, shall we not?" asked the King.
"Yes," replied the Princess, "but how shall I enter my château and show you its wonders without a key, for I dropped it in the sea when NOun Doare and his horse carried me over it."
Once more was the youth charged with the task, and through the aid of the Fish-King was able to procure the key, which was cut from a single diamond. None of the fishes had seen it, but at last the oldest fish, who had not appeared when his name was pronounced, came forward and produced it from his mouth.
With a glad heart the successful NOun Doare returned to Paris, and as the Princess had now no more excuses to make the day of the wedding was fixed and the ceremony was celebrated with much splendour. To the astonishment of all, when the King and his betrothed entered the church NOun Doare followed behind with his mare. At the conclusion of the ceremony the mare's skin suddenly fell to the ground, disclosing a maiden of the most wonderful beauty.
Smiling upon the bewildered NOun Doare, the damsel gave him her hand and said: "Come with me to Tartary, for the king of that land is my father, and there we shall be wed amid great rejoicing."
Leaving the amazed King and wedding guests, the pair quitted the church together. More might have been told of them, but Tartary is a far land and no news of them has of late years reached Brittany.
There was once an old charcoal-burner who had twenty-six grandchildren. For twenty-five of them he had no great difficulty in procuring godparents, but for the twenty-sixth--that, alas! was a different story. Godmothers, indeed, were to be found in plenty, but he could not find anyone to act as godfather.
As he wandered disconsolately along the high road, dwelling on his bad luck, he saw a fine carriage coming toward him, its occupant no less a personage than the King himself. The old man made an obeisance so low that the King was amused, and threw him a handful of silver.
"My good man," he said, "here are alms for you."
"Your Majesty," replied the charcoal-burner, "I do not desire alms. I am unhappy because I cannot find a godfather for my twenty-sixth grandchild."
The King considered the matter.
"I myself will be godfather to the child," he said at length. "Tell me when it is to be baptized and I will meet you at the church."
The old man was delighted beyond measure, and in due time he and his relatives brought the child to be baptized. When they reached the church, sure enough,
there was the King waiting to take part in the ceremony, and in his honour the child was named Charles. Before taking leave the King gave to the charcoal-burner the half of a coin which he had broken in two. This Charles on reaching his eighteenth birthday was to convey to the Court at Paris, as a token whereby his godfather should know him. His Majesty also left a thousand crowns, which were to be utilized in the education and general upbringing of the child.
Time passed and Charles attained his eighteenth birth day. Taking the King's token, he set out for the royal abode. As he went he encountered a-n old man, who warned him on no account to drink from a certain well which he would pass on his way. The lad promised to regard the warning, but ere he reached the well he had forgotten it.
A man sat by the side of the well.
"You are hot and tired," he said, feigning courtesy, "will you not stop to drink?"
The water was cool and inviting. Charles bent his head and drank thirstily. And while he drank the stranger robbed him of his token; but this he did not know till afterward.
Gaily Charles resumed his way, while the thief went to Paris by a quicker route and got there before him.
Boldly the thief demanded audience of the King, and produced the token so wickedly come by. The sovereign ordered the other half of the coin to be brought out, and lo! they fitted exactly. And because the thief had a plausible face the good King did not doubt that he was indeed his godson. He therefore had him treated with all honour and respect, and bestowed gifts upon him lavishly.
Meanwhile Charles had arrived in Paris, and, finding that he had been deprived of his only means of proving his identity to the King, he accepted the situation philosophically and set about earning his living. He succeeded in obtaining a post as herdsman on the royal estates.
One day the robber was greatly disconcerted to find the real Charles at the very gates of the palace. He determined to be rid of him once for all, so he straightway approached the King.
"Your Majesty, there is a man among your retainers who has said that he will demand of the sun why it is so red at sunrise."
"He is indeed a foolish fellow," said the King. "Our decree is that he shall carry out his rash boast to-morrow ere sunset, or, if it be but idle folly, lose his head on the following morning."
The thief was delighted with the success of his plot. Poor Charles was summoned before the King and bidden to ask the sun why he was so red at sunrise. In vain he denied having uttered the speech. Had not the King the word of his godson?
Next morning Charles set out on his journey. Ere he had gone very far he met an old man who asked him his errand, and afterward gave him a wooden horse on which to ride to the sun. Charles thought this but a sorry joke. However, no sooner had he mounted his wooden steed than it rose into the air and flew with him to where the sun's castle towered on the peak of a lofty mountain.
To the sun, a resplendent warrior, Charles addressed his query.
"In the morning," said the sun, "I pass the castle of the
[paragraph continues] Princess of Tronkolaine, and she is so lovely that I must needs look my best."
Charles, mounted on his wooden horse, flew with this answer to Paris. The King was satisfied, but the thief gnashed his teeth in secret rage, and plotted yet further against the youth.
"Your Majesty," he said, "this herdsman who tends your herds has said that he will lead hither the Princess of Tronkolaine to be your bride."
"If he has said so," replied the King, "he shall lead her hither or forfeit his life."
"Alas!" thought Charles, when he learned of the plot, "I must bid farewell to my life--there is no hope for me!"
All the same he set out boldly enough, and by and by encountered the old man who had helped him on his previous mission. To him Charles confided his troubles, begging for advice and assistance.
The old man pondered.
"Return to the Court," he said, "and ask the King to give you three ships, one laden with oatmeal, another with bacon, and the third with salt meat. Then sail on till you come to an island covered with ants. To their monarch, the Ant-King, make a present of the cargo of oatmeal. He will direct you to a second island, whereon dwell fierce lions. Fear them not. Present your cargo of bacon to their King and he will become your friend. Yet a third island you will touch, inhabited only by sparrow-hawks. Give to their King your cargo of salt meat and he will show you the abode of the Princess."
Charles thanked the sage for his advice, which he promptly proceeded to follow. The King granted him
the three ships, and he sailed away in search of the Princess.
When he came to the first island, which was swarming with ants, he gave up his cargo of grain, and so won the friendship of the little creatures. At the second island he unloaded the bacon, which he presented to the King of the Lions; while at the third he gave up the salt beef to the King of the Sparrow-hawks, who directed him how to come at the object of his quest. Each monarch bade Charles summon him instantly if he had need of assistance.
Setting sail from the island of the sparrow-hawks, the youth arrived at length at the abode of the Princess.
She was seated under an orange-tree, and as Charles gazed upon her he thought her the most beautiful woman in the world, as indeed she was.
The Princess, looking up, beheld a comely youth, beneath whose ardent gaze her eyes fell. Smiling graciously, she invited him into her castle, and be, nothing loath, followed her into the great hall, where tempting viands were spread before him.
When he had supped he made known his errand to the Princess, and begged her to accompany him to Paris.
She agreed only on condition that he would perform three tasks set him, and when Charles was curious to know what was required of him she led him into another room where was a large heap of every kind of seed--corn, barley, clover, flax--all mixed up anyhow.
"This is the first task," said the Princess: "you must put each kind of seed into a different heap, so that no single seed shall be out of its place. This you must accomplish ere to-morrow at sunrise." With that she left the room.
Charles was in despair, until he bethought him of his. friend the King of the Ants, whom he begged to help him. Scarcely had he uttered the words when ants began to fill the room, coming from he knew not where. In less time than it takes to tell they had arranged the seeds into separate heaps, so that no single seed was out of its place.
When the Princess arrived in the morning she was astonished to find the hero fast asleep and the work accomplished. All day she entertained him hospitably in her castle, and at nightfall she showed him the second task. An avenue of great oaks led down from the castle. Giving him a wooden axe and a wooden saw, the Princess bade him cut down all the trees ere morning.
When she had left him Charles called upon the King of the Lions. Instantly a number of lions bounded upon the scene, and with teeth and claws soon performed the task.
In the morning the Princess, finding Charles asleep and all the trees cut down, was more astonished than ever.
The third task was the most difficult of all. A high mountain had to be levelled to the plain in a single night. Without the help of the sparrow-hawks, Charles would certainly have failed, but these faithful creatures worked with a will, and soon had the great mountain carried away piece by piece and dropped into the sea.
When the Princess came for the third time and found the hero asleep by the finished task she fell in love with him straightway, and kissed him softly on the brow.
There was now nothing further to hinder his return, and he begged the Princess to accompany him to Paris. In due time they arrived in that city, to be welcomed
with great warmth by the people. The beauty of the lady won all hearts. But great was the general astonishment when she declared that she would marry, not the King, but the youth who had brought her to Paris! Charles thereupon declared himself the true godson of the King, and the monarch, far from being angry, gave the couple his blessing and great estates; and when in course of time he died they reigned in his stead.
As for the thief, he was ordered to execution forthwith, and was roasted to death in a large oven.
This is another tale which introduces the search for the sun-princess in a peculiar setting.
In the long ago there lived near the Lake of Léguer a jolly miller who found recreation after his work in shooting the wild swans and ducks which frequented that stretch of water. One December day, when it was freezing hard and the earth was covered with snow, he observed a solitary duck near the edge of the lake. He shot at it, and went forward to pick it up, when he saw to his amazement that it had changed into a beautiful princess. He was ready to drop into the snow with fright, but the lady came graciously forward to him, saying:
"Fear not, my brave fellow, for know that I have been enchanted these many years under the form of a wild duck, because of the enmity of three malicious demons. You can restore me permanently to my human shape if you choose to show only a little perseverance and courage."
"Why, what do you desire me to do, madam?"
stammered the miller, abashed by the lady's beauty and condescension.
"What only a brave man could accomplish, my friend," she replied; "all that you have to do is to pass three consecutive nights in the old manor which you can see over there."
The miller shuddered, for he had heard the most terrible stories in connexion with the ruined manor, which had an evil name in the district.
"Alas! madam," he said, "whom might I not encounter there! Even the devil himself------"
"My good friend," said the Princess, sadly, "if you do as I ask you will have to encounter not one but a dozen devils, who will torment you in every possible way. But fear nothing, for I can provide you with a magic ointment which will preserve you entirely from all the injuries they would attempt to inflict upon you. Even if you were dead I could resuscitate you. I assure you that if you will do as I ask you will never regret it. Beneath the hearthstone in the hall of the manor are three casks of gold and three of silver, and all these will belong to you and to me if you assist me; so put your courage to the proof, I pray you."
The miller squared his shoulders. "Lady," he said, "I will obey you, even if I have to face a hundred devils instead of twelve."
The Princess smiled encouragingly and disappeared. On the following night the miller set out for the old manor, carrying a bundle of faggots to make a fire, and some cider and tobacco to refresh him during his vigil. When he arrived in the dismal old place he sat himself down by the hearth, where he had built a good fire, and lit his pipe. But he had scarcely done so when he
heard a most tremendous commotion in the chimney. Somewhat scared, he hid himself under an old bed which stood opposite the hearth, and, gazing anxiously from his place of concealment, beheld eleven grisly fiends descend from the flue. They seemed astonished to find a fire on the hearth, and did not appear to be in the best of tempers.
"Where is Boiteux?" cried one. "Oh," growled another, who appeared to be the chief of the band, "he is always late."
"Ah, behold him," said a third, as Boiteux arrived by the same road as his companions.
"Well, comrades," cried Boiteux, "have you heard the news?" The others shrugged their shoulders and shook their heads sulkily.
"Well," said Boiteux, "I am convinced that the miller of Léguer is here, and that he is trying to free the Princess from the enchantment which we have placed upon her."
A hurried search at once took place, the demons scrambling from one part of the room to the other, tearing down the curtains and making every effort to discover the hiding-place of the intruder. At last Boiteux, peering under the bed, saw the miller crouching there, and cried out: "Here is the rogue beneath the bed."
The unlucky miller was then seized by the foot and dragged into the shrieking and leaping circle. With a gesture of command the chief demon subdued the antics of his followers.
"So, my jolly miller," said he, "our friend the Princess has found a champion in you, has she? Well, we are going to have some sport with you, which I fear will
not be quite to your taste, but I can assure you that you will not again have the opportunity of assisting a princess in distress."
With this he seized the miller and thrust him from him with great force. As he flew like a stone from a sling, another of the fiends seized him, and the unhappy man was thrown violently about from one to the other. At last they threw him out of the window into the courtyard, and as he did not move they thought that he was dead. But in the midst of their laughter and rejoicing at the easy manner in which they had got rid of him, cockcrow sounded, and the diabolic company swiftly disappeared. They had scarcely taken their departure when the Princess arrived. She tenderly anointed the miller's hurts from the little pot of magic ointment she had brought with her, and, nothing daunted, now that he was thoroughly revived, the bold fellow announced his intention of seeing the matter through and remaining in the manor for the two following nights.
He had scarcely ensconced himself in his seat by the chimney-side on the second night when the twelve fiends came tumbling down the chimney as before. At one end of the room was a large heap of wood, behind which the miller quickly took refuge.
"I smell the smell of a Christian!" cried Boiteux. A search followed, and once more the adventurous miller was dragged forth.
"Oho!" cried the leader, "so you are not dead after all! Well, I can assure you that we shall not botch our work on this occasion."
One of the grisly company placed a large cauldron of oil upon the fire, and when this was boiling they seized their victim and thrust him into it. The most dreadful
agony seized the miller as the liquid seethed around his body, and he was just about to faint under the intensity of the torture when once again the cock crew and the fiendish band took themselves off. The Princess quickly appeared, and, drawing the miller from the cauldron, smeared him from head to foot with the ointment.
On the third night the devils once more found the miller in the apartment. In dismay Boiteux suggested that he should be roasted on a spit and eaten, but unluckily for them they took a long time to come, to this conclusion, and when they were about to impale their victim on the spit, the cock crew and they were forced to withdraw, howling in baffled rage. The Princess arrived as before, and was delighted to see that this time her champion did not require any assistance.
"All is well now," she said. "You have freed me from my enchantment and the treasure is ours."
They raised the hearthstone from its place, and, as she had said, the three casks of gold and the three casks of silver were found resting beneath it.
"Take what you wish for yourself," said the Princess. "As for me, I cannot stay here; I must at once make a journey which will last a year and a day, after which we shall never part again."
With these words she disappeared. The miller was grieved at her departure, but, consoling himself with the treasure, made over his mill to his apprentice and, apprising one of his companions of his good luck, resolved to go upon a journey with him, until such time as the Princess should return. He visited the neighbouring countries, and, with plenty of money at his disposal, found existence very pleasant indeed. After
some eight months of this kind of life, he and his friend resolved to return to Brittany, and set out on their journey. One day they encountered on the road an old woman selling apples. She asked them to buy, but the miller was advised by his friend not to pay any heed o her. Ignoring the well-meant advice, the miller laughed and bought three apples. He had scarcely eaten one when he became unwell. Recalling how the fruit had disagreed with him, he did not touch the other apples until the day on which the Princess had declared she would return. When on the way to the manor to meet her, he ate the second apple. He began to feel sleepy, and, lying down at the foot of a tree, fell into a deep slumber.
Soon after the Princess arrived in a beautiful star-coloured chariot drawn by ten horses. When she saw the miller lying sleeping she inquired of his friend what had chanced to him. The man acquainted her with the adventure of the apples, and the Princess told him that the old woman from whom he had purchased them was a sorceress.
"Alas!" she said, "I am unable to take him with me in this condition, but I will come to this place to-morrow and again on the following day, and if he be awake I will transport him hence in my chariot. Here are a golden pear and a handkerchief; give him these and tell him that I will come again."
She disappeared in her star-coloured equipage. Shortly afterward the miller wakened, and his friend told him what had occurred and gave him the pear and the kerchief. The next day the friends once more repaired to the spot where the Princess had vanished, but in thoughtlessness the miller had eaten of the third apple,
and once more the Princess found him asleep. In sorrow she promised to return next day for the last time, once more leaving a golden pear and a handkerchief with his friend, to whom she said:
"If he is not awake when I come to-morrow he will have to cross three powers and three seas in order to find me."
Unluckily, however, the miller was still asleep when the Princess appeared on the following day. She repeated what she had said to his friend concerning the ordeal that the unfortunate miller would have to face before he might see her again, and ere She took her departure left a third pear and a third handkerchief behind her. When the miller awoke and found that she had gone he went nearly crazy with grief, but nevertheless he declared his unalterable intention of regaining the Princess, even if he should have to travel to the ends of the earth in search of her. Accordingly he set out to find her abode. He walked and walked innumerable miles, until at last he came to a great forest. As he arrived at its gloomy borders night fell, and he considered it safest to climb a tree, from which, to his great satisfaction, he beheld a light shining in the distance. Descending, he walked in the direction of the light, and found a tiny hut made of the branches of trees, in which sat a little old man with a long white beard.
"Good evening, grandfather," said the miller.
"Good evening, my child," replied the old man. "I behold you with pleasure, for it is eighty years since I have seen any human being."
The miller entered the hut and sat down beside the old man, and after some conversation told him the object of his journey.
"I will help you, my son," said the ancient. "Do you see these enchanted gaiters? Well, I wore them at your age. When you buckle them over your legs you will be able to travel seven leagues at a single step, and you will arrive without any difficulty at the castle of the Princess you desire so much to see again."
The miller passed the night in the hut with the old hermit, and on the following morning, with the rising of the sun, buckled on the magic gaiters and stepped out briskly. All went well to begin with, nothing arrested his progress, and he sped over rivers, forests, and mountains. As the sun was setting he came to the borders of a second forest, where he observed a second hut, precisely similar to that in which he had passed the previous night. Going toward it, he found it occupied by an aged woman, of whom he demanded supper and lodging.
"Alas! my son," said the old woman, "you do ill to come here, for I have three sons, terrible fellows, who will be here presently, and I am certain that if you remain they will devour you."
The miller asked the names of the sons, and was informed by the old woman that they were January, February, and March. From this he concluded that the crone he was addressing was none other than the mother of the winds, and on asking her if this was so she admitted that he had judged correctly. While they were talking there was a terrible commotion in the chimney, from which descended an enormous giant with white hair and beard, breathing out clouds of frost.
"Aha!" he cried, "I see, mother, that you have not neglected to provide for my supper!"
"Softly, softly, good son," said the old dame; "this is
little Yves, my nephew and your cousin; you must not eat him." The giant, who seemed greatly annoyed, retired into a corner, growling.. Shortly afterward his brothers, February and March, arrived, and were told the same tale regarding the miller's relationship to them.
Our hero, resolved to profit by the acquaintanceship, asked the gigantic February if he would carry him to the palace of the Princess, whom he described.
"Ah," said February, "without doubt you speak of the Princess Starbright. If you wish I will give you a lift on my back part of the way."
The miller gratefully accepted the offer, and in the morning mounted on the back of the mighty wind-giant, who carried him over a great sea. Then, after traversing much land and a second ocean, and while crossing a third spacious water, February expressed himself as quite fatigued and said that he could not carry his new cousin any farther. The miller glanced beneath him at the great waste of waters and begged him to make an effort to reach the land on the other side. Giving vent to a deep-throated grumble, February obeyed, and at last set him down outside the walls of the town where the castle of the Princess Starbright was situated. The miller entered the town and came to an inn, and, having dined, entered into conversation with the hostess, asking her the news of the place.
"Why," said the woman, amazed, "where do you come from that you don't know that the Princess Starbright is to be married to-day, and to a husband that she does not love? The wedding procession will pass the door in a few moments on its way to the church."
The miller was greatly downcast at these words, but
plucking up courage he placed on a little table before the inn the first of the pears and handkerchiefs that the Princess had left with his friend. Shortly afterward the wedding procession passed, and the Princess immediately remarked the pear and the kerchief, and also recognized the miller standing close by. She halted, and, feigning illness, begged that the ceremony might be postponed until the morrow. Having returned to the palace, she sent one of her women to purchase the fruit and the handkerchief, and these the miller gave the maiden without question. On the following day the same thing happened, and on the third occasion of the Princess's passing the same series of events occurred. This time the Princess sent for the miller, and the pair embraced tenderly and wept with joy at having recovered each other.
Now the Princess was as clever as she was beautiful, and she had a stratagem by which she hoped to marry the miller without undue opposition on the part of her friends. So she procured the marriage garments of the prince, her fiancé, and attiring the miller in them, took him to the marriage feast, which had been prepared for the fourth time at a late hour; but she hid her lover in a secluded corner from the public gaze. After a while she pretended to be looking for something, and upon being asked what she had lost, replied:
"I have a beautiful coffer, but, alas! I have lost the key of it. I have found a new key, but it does not fit the casket; should I not search until I have recovered the old one?"
"Without doubt!" cried every one. Then the Princess, going to the place where the miller was concealed, led him forth by the hand.
"My lords and gentles," she said, "the coffer I spoke of is my heart; here is the one key that can fit it, the key that I had lost and have found again."
The Princess and the miller were married amid universal rejoicings; and some time after the ceremony they did not fail to revisit the Lake of Léguer, the scene of their first meeting, the legend of which still clings like the mists of evening to its shores.
This quaint and curious tale, in which the native folklore and French elements are so strangely mingled, deals, like its predecessor, with the theme of the search for the fairy princess. We turn now to another tale of quest with somewhat similar incidents, where the solar nature of one of the characters is perhaps more obvious--the quest for the mortal maiden who has been carried off by the sun-hero. We refrain in this place from indicating the mythological basis which underlies such a tale as this, as such a phenomenon is already amply illustrated in other works in this series.
There once lived a peasant who had seven children, six of them boys and the seventh a girl. They were very poor and all had to work hard for a living, but the drudges of the family were the youngest son, Yvon, and his sister, Yvonne. Because they were gentler and more delicate than the others, they were looked upon as poor, witless creatures, and all the hardest work was given them to do. But the children comforted each other, and became but the better favoured as they grew up.
One day when Yvonne was taking the cattle to pasture she encountered a handsome youth, so splendidly garbed
that her simple heart was filled with awe and admiration. To her astonishment he addressed her and courteously begged her hand in marriage. "To-morrow," he said, "I shall meet you here at this hour, and you shall give me an answer."
Troubled, yet secretly happy, Yvonne made her way home, and told her parents all that had chanced. At first they laughed her to scorn, and refused to believe her story of the handsome prince, but when at length they were convinced they told her she was free to marry whom she would.
On the following day Yvonne betook herself to the trysting-place, where her lover awaited her, even more gloriously resplendent than on the occasion of his first coming. The very trappings of his horse were of gleaming gold. At Yvonne's request he accompanied her to her home, and made arrangements with her kindred for the marriage. To all inquiries regarding his name and place of abode he returned that these should be made known on the wedding morning.
Time passed, and on the day appointed the glittering stranger came to claim his wife. The ceremony over, he swept her into a carriage and was about to drive away, when her brothers reminded him of his promise to reveal his identity.
"Where must we go to visit our sister?" they asked.
"Eastward," he replied, "to a palace built of crystal, beyond the Sea of Darkness."
And with that the pair were gone.
A year elapsed, and the brothers neither saw nor heard anything of their sister, so that at length they decided to go in search of her. Yvon would have accompanied them, but they bade him stay at home.
"You are so stupid," they said, "you would be of no use to us."
Eastward they rode, and ever eastward, till at length they found themselves in the heart of a great forest. Then night came on and they lost the path. Twice a great noise, like the riot of a tempest, swept over their heads, leaving them trembling and stricken with panic.
By and by they came upon an old woman tending a great fire, and of her they inquired how they might reach the abode of their brother-in-law.
"I cannot tell," said the old woman, "but my son may be able to direct you."
For the third time they heard the noise as of a great wind racing over the tree-tops.
"Hush!" said the old woman, "it is my son approaching."
He was a huge giant, this son of hers, and when he drew near the fire he said loudly:
"Oh ho! I smell the blood of a Christian!"
"What!" cried his mother sharply. "Would you eat your pretty cousins, who have come so far to visit us?" At that the giant became quite friendly toward his 'cousins,' and when he learned of their mission even offered to conduct them part of the way.
Notwithstanding his amiability, however, the brothers spent an anxious night, and were up betimes on the following morning.
The giant made ready for departure. First of all he bade the old woman pile fresh fuel on the fire. Then he spread a great black cloth, on which he made the brothers stand. Finally he strode into the fire, and when his clothes were consumed the black cloth rose
into the air, bearing the brothers with it. Its going was marked by the sound of rushing wind which had terrified them on the preceding day. At length they alighted on a vast plain, half of which was rich and fertile, while the other half was bleak and arid as a desert. The plain was dotted with horses, and, curiously enough, those on the arid side were in splendid condition, whereas those on the fertile part were thin and miserable.
The brothers had not the faintest idea of which direction they ought to take, and after a vain attempt to mount the horses on the plain they decided to return home. After many wanderings they arrived at their native place once more.
When Yvon learned of the ill-success which had attended their mission he decided to go himself in search of his sister, and though his brothers laughed at him they gave him an old horse and bade him go.
Eastward and eastward he rode, till at length he reached the forest where the old woman still tended the fire. Seeing that he was strong and fearless, she directed him by a difficult and dangerous road, which, however, he must pursue if he wished to see his sister.
It was indeed a place of terrors. Poisonous serpents lay across his track; ugly thorns and briers sprang underfoot; at one point a lake barred his way.
Finally a subterranean passage led him into his sister's country, where everything was of crystal, shining with the splendour of the sun itself. At the end of a gleaming pathway rose a castle built entirely of crystal, its innumerable domes and turrets reflecting the light in a thousand prismatic hues.
Having gained access to the castle through a cave, Yvon wandered through its many beautiful chambers,
till in one of these he came upon his sister asleep on a silken couch.
Entranced with her beauty, and not daring to wake her, he slipped behind a curtain and watched her in silence; but as time went on he marvelled that she did not wake.
At eventide a handsome youth--Yvon's brother-in-law--entered the chamber, struck Yvonne sharply three times, then flung himself down by her side and went to sleep. All night Yvon waited in his place of concealment. In the morning the young man rose from his couch, gave his wife three resounding blows, and went away. Only then did Yvon emerge and wake his sister.
Brother and sister exchanged a tender greeting, and found much to talk of after their long separation. Yvon learned that the country to which he had come was a peculiar place, where meat and drink could be entirely dispensed with, while even sleep was not a necessity.
"Tell me, Yvonne," he said, remembering what he had seen of his brother-in-law, "does your husband treat you well?"
Yvonne assured him that her husband was all she could wish-that she was perfectly happy.
"Is he always absent during the day?" he asked anxiously.
"Do you know where he goes?"
"I do not, my brother."
"I have a mind," said Yvon, "to ask him to let me accompany him on his journey. What say you, sister?"
"It is a very good plan," said Yvonne.
At sundown her husband returned home. He and Yvon became very good friends, and the latter begged
to be allowed to accompany him on his journey the following day.
"You may do so," was the response, "but only on one condition: if you touch or address anyone save me you must return home."
Yvon readily agreed to accept the condition, and early next morning the two set off. Ere long they came to a wide plain, one half of which was green and fruitful, while the other half was barren and dry. On this plain cattle were feeding, and those on the arid part were fat and well-conditioned, while the others were mean and shrivelled to a degree. Yvon learned from his companion that the fat cattle represented those who were contented with their meagre lot, while the lean animals were those who, with a plentiful supply of worldly goods, were yet miserable and discontented.
Many other strange things they saw as they went, but that which seemed strangest of all to Yvon was the sight of two trees lashing each other angrily with their branches, as though each would beat the other to the ground.
Laying his hands on them, he forbade them to fight, and lo! in a moment they became two human beings, a man and wife, who thanked Yvon for releasing them from an enchantment under which they had been laid as a punishment for their perpetual bickering.
Anon they reached a great cavern from which weird noises proceeded, and Yvon would fain have advanced farther; but his companion forbade him, reminding him that in disenchanting the trees he had failed to observe the one essential condition, and must return to the palace where his sister dwelt.
There Yvon remained for a few days longer, after which
his brother-in-law directed him by a speedy route to his home.
"Go," said the prince, "but ere long you will return, and then it will be to remain with us for ever."
On reaching his native village Yvon found all trace of his dwelling gone. Greatly bewildered, he inquired for his father by name. An old greybeard replied.
"I have heard of him," he said. "He lived in the days when my grandfather's grandfather was but a boy, and now he sleeps in the churchyard yonder."
Only then did Yvon realize that his visit to his sister had been one, not of days, but of generations!
Famous among all peoples is the tale of the husband surrounded by mystery--bespelled in animal form, like the Prince in the story of Beauty and the Beast, nameless, as in that of Lohengrin, or unbeheld of his spouse, as in the myth of Cupid and Psyche. Among uncivilized peoples it is frequently forbidden to the wife to see her husband's face until some time after marriage, and the belief that ill-luck will befall one or both should this law be disregarded runs through primitive story, being perhaps reminiscent of a time when the man of an alien or unfriendly tribe crept to his wife's lodge or hut under cover of darkness and returned ere yet the first glimmer of dawn might betray him to the men of her people. The story which follows, however, deals with the theme of the enchanted husband whose wife must not speak to anyone until her first child receives the sacrament of baptism, and is, perhaps, unique of its kind.
There lived at one time in the old château of Kerouez, in the commune of Loguivy-Plougras, a rich and
powerful seigneur, whose only sorrow was the dreadful deformity of his son, who had come into the world with a horse's head. He was naturally kept out of sight as much as possible, but when he had attained the age of eighteen years he told his mother one day that he desired to marry, and requested her to interview a farmer in the vicinity who had three pretty young daughters, in order that she might arrange a match with one of them.
The good lady did as she was requested, not without much embarrassment and many qualms of conscience, and after conversing upon every imaginable subject, at length gently broke the object of her visit to the astonished farmer. The poor man was at first horrified, but little by little the lady worked him into a good humour, so that at last he consented to ask his daughters if any one of them would agree to marry the afflicted young lord. The two elder girls indignantly refused the offer, but when it was made plain to them that she who espoused the seigneur would one day be châtelaine of the castle and become a fine lady, the eldest daughter somewhat reluctantly consented and the match was agreed upon.
Some days afterward the bride-to-be happened to pass the castle and saw the servants washing the linen, when one cried to her:
"How in the world can a fine girl like you be such a fool as to throw herself away on a man with a horse's head?"
"Bah!" she replied, "he is rich, and, let me tell you, we won't be married for long, for on the bridal night I shall cut his throat."
Just at that moment a gay cavalier passed and smiled at the farmer's daughter.
"You are having a strange conversation, mademoiselle," he said. She coloured and looked somewhat confused.
"Well, sir," she replied, "it is hateful to be mocked by these wenches because I have the bad luck to be espoused to a seigneur with a horse's head, and I assure you I feel so angry that I shall certainly carry out my threat."
The unknown laughed shortly and went his way. In time the night of the nuptials arrived. A grand fête was held at the château, and, the ceremony over, the bridesmaids conducted the young wife to her chamber. The bridegroom shortly followed, and to the surprise of his wife, no sooner had the hour of sunset come than his horse's head disappeared and he became exactly as other men. Approaching the bed where his bride lay, he suddenly seized her, and before she could cry out or make the least clamour he killed her in the manner in which she had threatened to kill him.
In the morning his mother came to the chamber, and was horrified at the spectacle she saw.
"Gracious heavens! my son, what have you done?" she cried.
"I have done that, my mother," replied her son, "which was about to be done to me."
Three months afterward the young seigneur asked his mother to repair once more to the farmer with the request that another of his daughters might be given him in marriage. The second daughter, ignorant of the manner of her sister's death, and mindful of the splendid wedding festivities, embraced the proposal with alacrity. Like her sister, she chanced to be passing the washing-green of the castle one day, and the laundresses, knowing of her espousal, taunted her
upon it, so that at last she grew very angry and cried:
"I won't be troubled long with the animal, I can assure you, for on the very night that I wed him I shall kill him like a pig!"
At that very moment the same unknown gentleman, who had overheard the fatal words of her sister passed, and said
"How now, young women, that's very strange talk of yours!"
"Well, monseigneur," stammered the betrothed girl, "they are twitting me upon marrying a man with a horse's head; but I will cut his throat on the night of our wedding with as little conscience as I would cut the throat of a pig." The unknown gentleman laughed as he had done before and passed upon his way.
As on the previous occasion, the wedding was celebrated with all the pomp and circumstance which usually attends a Breton ceremony of the kind, and in due time the bride was conducted to her chamber, only to be found in the morning weltering in her blood.
At the end of another three months the seigneur dispatched his mother for the third time to the farmer, with the request that his younger daughter might be given him in marriage, but on this occasion her parents were by no means enraptured with the proposal. When the great lady, however, promised them that if they consented to the match they would be given the farm to have and to hold as their own property, they found the argument irresistible and reluctantly agreed. Strange to say, the girl herself was perfectly composed about the matter, and gave it as her opinion that if her. sisters had met with a violent death they were entirely
to blame themselves, for some reason which she could not explain, and she added that she thought that their loose and undisciplined way of talking had had much to do with their untimely fate. just as her sisters had been, she too was taunted by the laundresses regarding her choice of a husband, but her answer to them was very different.
"If they met with their deaths," she said, "it was because of their wicked utterances. I do not in the least fear that I shall have the same fate."
As before the unknown seigneur passed, but this time, without saying anything, he hurried on his way and was soon lost to view.
The wedding of the youngest sister was even more splendid than that of the two previous brides. On the following morning the young seigneur's mother hastened with fear and trembling to the marriage chamber, and to her intense relief found that her daughter-in-law was alive. For some months the bride lived happily with her husband, who every night at set of sun regained his natural appearance as a young and handsome man. In due time a son was born to them, who had not the least sign of his semi-equine parentage, and when they were about to have the infant baptized the father said to the young mother:
"Hearken to what I have to say. I was condemned to suffer the horrible enchantment you know of until such time as a child should be born to me, and I shall be immediately delivered from the curse whenever this infant is baptized. But take care that you do not speak a word until the baptismal bells cease to sound, for if you utter a syllable, even to your mother, I shall disappear on the instant and you will never see me more."
Full of the resolve not to utter a single sound, the young mother, who lay in bed, kept silent, until at last she heard the sound of bells, when, in her joy, forgetting the warning, she turned to her mother, who sat near, with words of congratulation on her lips. A few moments afterward her husband rushed into the room, the horse's head still upon his shoulders. He was covered with sweat, and panted fiercely.
"Ah, miserable woman," he cried, "what have you done? I must leave you, and you shall never see me more!" and he made as if to quit the room. His wife rose from her bed, and strove to detain him, but he struck at her with his fist. The blood trickled out and made three spots on his shirt.
"Behold these spots," cried the young wife; "they shall never disappear until I find you."
"And I swear to you," cried her husband, "that you will never find me until you have worn out three pairs of iron shoes in doing so."
With these words he ran off at such speed that the poor wife could not follow him, and, fainting, she sank to the ground.
Some time after her husband had left her the young wife had three pairs of iron shoes made and went in search of him. After she had travelled about the world for nearly ten years the last pair of shoes began to show signs of wear, when she found herself one day at a castle where the servants were hanging out the clothes to dry, and she heard one of the laundresses say:
"Do you see this shirt? I declare it is enchanted, for although I have washed it again and again I cannot rub out these three spots of blood which you see upon it."
When the wanderer heard this she approached the
laundress and said to her: "Let me try, I pray you. I think I can wash the shirt clean."
They gave her the shirt, she washed it, and the spots disappeared. So grateful was the laundress that she bade the stranger go to the castle and ask for a meal and a bed. These were willingly granted her, and at night she was placed in a small apartment next to that occupied by the lord of the castle. From what she had seen she was sure that her husband was the lord himself, so when she heard the master of the house enter the room next door she knocked upon the boards which separated it from her own. Her husband, for he it was, replied from the other side; then, entering her room, he recognized his wife, and they were happily united after the years of painful separation. To the wife's great joy her husband was now completely restored to his proper form, and nothing occurred to mar their happiness for the rest of their lives.
Weird and terrible as are many of the darksome legends of Brittany, it may be doubted if any are more awe-inspiring than that which we are now about to relate. "Those who are affianced three times without marrying shall burn in hell," says an old Breton proverb, and it is probably this aphorism which has given the Bretons such a strong belief in the sacred nature of a betrothal. The fantastic ballad from which this story is taken is written in the dialect of Léon, and the words are put into the mouth of a maiden of that country. Twice had she been betrothed. On the last occasion she had worn a robe of the finest stuff, embroidered with twelve brilliant stars and having the figures of the sun and
moon painted upon it, like the lady in Madame dAulnoy's story of Finette Cendron (Cinderella). On the occasion when she went to meet her third fiancé in church she almost fainted as she turned with her maidens into the little road leading up to the building, for there before her was a great lord clad in steel cap-à-pie, wearing on his head a casque of gold, his shoulders covered by a blood-coloured mantle. Strange lights flashed from his eyes, which glittered under his casque like meteors. By his side stood a huge black steed, which ever and again struck the ground impatiently with his hoofs, throwing up sparks of fire.
The priest was waiting in the church, the bridegroom arrived, but the bride did not come. Where had she gone? She had stepped on board a barque with the dark steel-clad lord, and the ship passed silently over the waters until it vanished among the shadows of night. Then the lady turned to her husband.
"What gloomy waters are these through which we sail, my lord?" she asked.
"This is the Lake of Anguish," he replied in hollow tones. "We sail to the Place of Skulls, at the mouth of Hell." At this the wretched bride wept bitterly. "Take back your wedding-ring!" she cried. "Take back your dowry and your bridal gifts!"
But he answered not. Down they descended into horrid darkness, and as the unhappy maiden fell there rang in her ears the cries of the damned.
This tale is common to many countries. The fickle maiden is everywhere regarded among primitive peoples with dislike and distrust. But perhaps the folk-ballad which most nearly resembles that just related is the Scottish ballad of The Demon Lover, which inspired
Click to enlarge
THE BRIDE OF SATAN
the late Hamish MacCunn, the gifted Scottish composer, in the composition of his weird and striking orchestral piece, The Ship o the Fiend.
Another tradition which tells of the fate of an unhappy maiden is enshrined in the ballad of The Baron of Jauioz. Louis, Baron of Jauioz, in Languedoc, was a French warrior of considerable renown who flourished in the fourteenth century, and who took part in many of the principal events of that stirring epoch, fighting against the English in France and Flanders under the Duke of Berry, his overlord. Some years later he embarked for the Holy Land, but, if we may believe Breton tradition, he returned, and while passing through the duchy fell in love with and actually bought for a sum of money a young Breton girl, whom he carried away with him to France. The unfortunate maiden, so far from being attracted by the more splendid environment of his castle, languished and died.
"I bear the note of the death-bird," the ballad begins sadly; "is it true, my mother, that I am sold to the Baron of Jauioz?"
"Ask your father, little Tina, ask your father," is the callous reply, and the question is then put to her father, who requests the unfortunate damsel to ask her brother, a harsh rustic who does not scruple to tell her the brutal truth, and adds that she must depart immediately. The girl asks what dress she must wear, her red gown, or her gown of white delaine.
"It matters little, my daughter," says the heartless mother. "Your lover waits at the door mounted on a great black horse. Go to him on the instant."
As she leaves her native village the clocks are striking' and she weeps bitterly.
"Adieu, Saint Anne!" she says. "Adieu, bells of my native land!"
Passing the Lake of Anguish she sees a band of the dead, white and shadowy, crossing the watery expanse in their little boats. As she passes them she can hear their teeth chatter. At the Valley of Blood she espies other unfortunates. Their hearts are sunken in them and all memory has left them.
After this terrible ride the Baron and Tina reach the castle of Jauioz. The old man seats himself near the, fire. He is black and ill-favoured as a carrion crow. His beard and his hair are white, and his eyes are like firebrands.
"Come hither to me, my child," says he, "come with me from chamber to chamber that I may show you my, treasures."
"Ah, seigneur," she replies, the tears falling fast, "I had rather be at home with my mother counting the chips which fall from the fire."
"Let us descend, then, to the cellar, where I will show you the rich wines in the great bins."
"Ah, sir, I would rather quaff the water of the fields that my father's horses drink."
"Come with me, then, to the shops, and I will buy you a sumptuous gown."
"Better that I were wearing the working dress that my mother made me."
The seigneur turns from her in anger. She lingers at the window and watches the birds, begging them to take a message from her to her friends.
At night a gentle voice whispers: "My father, my
mother, for the love of God, pray for me!" Then all is silence.
In this striking ballad we find strong traces of the Breton love of country and other national traits. The death-bird alluded to is a grey bird which sings during the winter in the Landes country in a voice soft and sad. It is probably a bird of the osprey species. It is thought that the girl who hears it sing is doomed to misfortune. The strange and ghostly journey of the unhappy Tina recalls the mise en scène of such ballads as The Bride of Satan, and it would seem that she passes through the Celtic Tartarus. It is plain that the Seigneur of Jauioz by his purchase of their countrywoman became so unpopular among the freedom-loving Bretons that at length they magnified him into a species of demon--a traditionary fate which he thoroughly deserved, if the heartrending tale concerning his victim has any foundation in fact.
The tale of the man who is helped by the grateful dead is by no means confined to Brittany. Indeed, in folktale the dead are often jealous of the living and act toward them with fiendish malice. But in the following we have a story in which a dead man shows his gratitude to the living for receiving the boon of Christian burial at his hands.
There was once a merchant-prince who had gained a great fortune by trading on land and sea. Many ships were his, and with these he traded to far countries, reaping a rich harvest. He had a son named Iouenn, and he was desirous that he too should embrace the career of a merchant and become rich. When, there
fore, Iouenn declared his willingness to trade in distant lands his father was delighted and gave him a ship full of Breton merchandise, with instructions to sell it to the best advantage in a foreign country and return home with the gold thus gained.
After a successful voyage the vessel arrived at a foreign port, and Iouenn presented his father's letters to the merchants there, and. disposed of his cargo so well that he found himself in. possession of a large sum of money. One day as he was walking on the outskirts of the city he saw a large number of dogs gathered round some, object, barking at it and worrying it. Approaching them, he discovered that that which they were worrying was nothing less than the corpse of a man. Making inquiries, he found that the unfortunate wretch had died deeply in debt, and that his body had been thrown into the roadway to be eaten by the dogs. Iouenn was shocked to see such an indignity offered to the dead, and out of the kindness of his heart chased the dogs away, paid the debts of the deceased, and granted his body the last rites of sepulture.
A few days afterward he left the port where these things had happened and set out on his homeward voyage. He had not sailed far when one of the mariners drew his attention to a strange ship a little distance away, which appeared to be draped entirely in black.
"That is indeed a curious vessel," said Iouenn. "Wherefore is it draped in black? and for what reason do those on board bewail so loudly?"
While he spoke the ship drew nearer, and Iouenn called to the people who thronged its decks, asking why they made such loud laments.
"Alas! good sir," replied the captain of the strange ship, "not far from here is an island inhabited by an enormous serpent, which for seven years has demanded an annual tribute of a royal princess, and we are now bearing another victim to her doom."
Iouenn laughed. "Where is the Princess?" he asked. At that moment the Princess came on deck, weeping and wringing her hands. Iouenn was so struck by her beauty that he there and then declared in the most emphatic manner that she should never become the prey of the serpent. On learning from the captain that he would hand over the maiden if a sufficient bribe were forthcoming, he paid over to him the last of the money he had gained from his trading, and taking the Princess on his own vessel sailed homeward.
In due time Iouenn arrived home and was welcomed with delight by his father; but when the old man learned the story of what had been done with his money he was furious; nor would he believe for a moment that the lady his son had rescued was a veritable princess, but chased Iouenn from his presence with hard and bitter words. Nevertheless Iouenn married the royal lady he had rescued, and they started housekeeping in a tiny dwelling. Time went on, and the Princess presented her husband with a little son, but by this time fortune had smiled upon Iouenn, for an uncle of his, who was also a merchant, had entrusted him with a fine vessel to trade in Eastern lands; so, taking with him the portraits of his wife and child, he set out on his voyage. With a fresh wind and favourable conditions generally he was not long in coming to the city where his wife's father reigned. Now, some mariners of the port, having entered the ship out of
curiosity, observed the Portrait of the Princess, and informed the King of the circumstance. The King himself came to the ship and demanded to know what had become of his daughter. Iouenn did not, of course, realize that the monarch was his father-in-law, and assured him that he knew nothing of his daughter, whereupon the King, growing very angry, had him cast into prison and ordered his ship to be broken to pieces and burned. In prison Iouenn made friends with his gaoler, to whom he related his history, which the gaoler in turn told the King, with the result that the prisoner was brought before the monarch, who, desired him to set out at once to bring his daughter back, and for this purpose fitted him out with a new vessel. But the old monarch took the precaution of sending two of his ministers along with the Breton sailor in case he should not return. The party soon came to Brittany, and found the Princess and her infant safe.
Now one of the King's ministers had loved the Princess for a long time, and consequently did not regard her husband with any great degree of favour; so when they re-embarked on the return journey to her father's kingdom her suspicions were aroused, and, fully aware of the minister's crafty nature, she begged her husband to remain with her as much as possible. But Iouenn liked to be on the bridge, whence he could direct the operations of his mariners, and laughed at his wife's fears. One night as he leaned over the side of he vessel, gazing upon the calm of the star-strewn sea, his enemy approached very stealthily and, seizing him by the legs, cast him headlong into the waters. After this he waited for a few moments, and, hearing no sound,
cried out that the captain had fallen overboard. A search was made, but with no avail. The Princess was distraught, and in the belief that her husband had perished remained in her cabin lamenting. But Iouenn was a capital swimmer and struck out lustily. He swam around for a long time, without, however, encountering any object upon which he could lay hold to support himself. Meanwhile the ship sailed on her course, and in due time arrived at the kingdom of the Princess's father, by whom she was received with every demonstration of joy. Great festivities were announced, and so pleased was the old King at his daughter's return that he willingly consented to her marriage with the treacherous minister, whom he regarded as the instrument of her deliverance. But the Princess put off the wedding-day by every possible artifice, for she felt in her heart that her husband was not really lost to her.
Let us return now to Iouenn. After swimming for some time he came upon a barren rock in the middle of the ocean, and here, though beaten upon by tempests and without any manner of shelter save that afforded by a cleft in the rock, he succeeded in living for three years upon the shell-fish which he gathered on the shores of his little domain. In that time he had grown almost like a savage. His clothes had fallen off him and he was thickly covered with matted hair. The only mark of civilization he bore was a chain of gold encircling his neck, the gift of his wife. One night he was sitting in his small dwelling munching his wretched supper of shell-fish when an eerie sound broke the stillness. He started violently. Surely these were human accents that he heard--yet not altogether human, for their weird cadence held something of the supernatural,
and cold as he was he felt himself grow still more chilly.
"Cold, cold," cried the voice, and a dreadful chattering of teeth ended in a long-drawn wail of "Hou, hou, hou!" The sound died away and once more he was left amid the great silence of the sea.
The next evening brought the same experience, but although Iouenn was brave he dared not question his midnight visitor. On the third occasion, however, he demanded: "Who is there?"
Out of the darkness there crawled a man completely naked, his body covered with blood and horrible wounds, the eyes fixed and glassy.
Iouenn trembled with horror. "In the name of God, who are you?" he cried.
"Ha, so you do not remember me, Iouenn?" asked the phantom. "I am that unfortunate man whose body you gave decent burial, and now I have come to help you in turn. Without doubt you wish to leave this desert rock on which you have suffered so long."
"I do, most devoutly," replied Iouenn.
"Well, you will have to make haste," said the dead man, "for to-morrow your wife is going to be married to the minister of your father-in-law, the wretch who cast you into the sea. Now if you will promise to give me a share of all that belongs to yourself and your wife within a year and a day, I will carry you at once to the palace of your father-in-law."
Iouenn promised to do as the phantom requested, and the dread being then asked him to mount upon his back. Iouenn did so, and the corpse then plunged into the sea, and, swimming swiftly, soon brought him to the port where his father-in-law reigned. When it had
set him safely on shore it turned and with a wave of its gaunt white arm cried, "In a year and a day," then plunged back into the sea.
When the door-keeper of the palace opened the gate in the morning he was astounded to see what appeared to be an animal crouching on the ground outside and crying for help. It was Iouenn. The palace lackeys crowded round him and threw him morsels of bread, which he devoured with avidity. One of the waiting-women told the Princess of the strange being who crouched outside. She descended in order to view him, and at once observed the golden chain she had given to her husband round his neck. Iouenn immediately rushed to embrace her. She took him to her chamber and clothed him suitably. By this time the bridal preparations had been completed, and, like the Princess in the story of the Miller of Léguer, the bride asked the advice of the company as to whether it were better to search for an old key that fitted a coffer in her possession or make use of a new key which did not fit; the coffer, of course, being her heart and the respective keys her husband and the minister. All the company advised searching for the old key, when she produced Iouenn and explained what she had meant. The crafty minister grew pale as death at sight of Iouenn, and the King stormed furiously.
"Ho, there!" he cried, "build a great fire, varlets, and cast this slave into it." All the company thought at first that his words were intended to apply to Iouenn, but when they saw him point at the minister whose guilt the Princess had made plain, they applauded and the wretch was hurried away to his doom.
Iouenn and the Princess lived happily at the Court, and
in time a second little son was born to them. Their first child had died, and they were much rejoiced at its place being filled. Iouenn had entirely forgotten his indebtedness to the dead man, but one day in the month of November, when his wife was sitting quietly by the fire nursing her infant, with her husband opposite her, three loud knocks resounded upon the door, which flew open and revealed the horrible form of the corpse to which Iouenn owed his freedom. The Princess shrieked at sight of the phantom, which said in deep tones: "Iouenn, remember thy bargain."
Trembling, Iouenn turned to his wife and asked her for the keys of their treasure-house, that he might give their terrible visitor a portion of their wealth, but with a disdainful wave of its arm the apparition bade him cease. "It is not your wealth I require, Iouenn," it said in hollow tones. "Behold that which I desire," and it pointed to the infant slumbering in its mother's arms.
Once more the Princess cried aloud, and clasped her little one to her bosom.
"My infant!" cried Iouenn in despair. "Never!"
"If you are a man of honour," said the corpse, "think of your promise made on the barren rock."
"It is true," said Iouenn, wringing his hands, "but oh, remember how I saved your body from the dogs."
"I only ask what is my due," said the ghost. "Besides, I do not desire all your infant, but a share of it only."
"Wretch!" cried Iouenn, "are you without a heart? Have then your wish, for honour with me is above all."
The infant was then undressed and laid between the two upon a table.
"Take your sword," said the phantom, "and cut off a portion for me."
"Ah, I would that I were on that desert rock in the middle of the ocean!" cried the unhappy father. He raised his weapon and was about to strike, when the phantom called upon him to hold.
"Harm not your infant, Iouenn," it cried. "I see clearly that you are a man of honour and that you have not forgotten the service I rendered you; nor do I fail to remember what you did for me, and how it is through you that I am able to dwell in Paradise, which I would not have been permitted to enter had my debts not been paid and my body given burial. Farewell, until we meet above." And with these words the apparition vanished.
Iouenn and the Princess lived long, respected by all, and when the old King died Iouenn, the man of his word, was made King in his place.