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What Marged Rolant Saw

MARGED ROLANT had a terrible experience once, but luckily she came through it unscathed.

She went from her home in Breconshire to the hiring fair at Rhaiadr Gwy. She was addressed by a very noble-looking gentleman all in black, who asked her if she would be a nursemaid and look after his children. Marged said that she was very fond of children, and inquired what wages she would receive. The sum mentioned by the stranger was so much larger than the usual rate of wages for nursemaids in that part of the country that Marged jumped at the chance offered to her, and the bargain was struck at once.

The stranger said he would like to start home immediately, and fetched a coal-black horse. Marged had to submit to being blindfolded: this done, she mounted behind the stranger and away they rode at a great pace. After some time the horse stopped and the stranger dismounted: he helped Marged to dismount and led her, still blindfolded, for a considerable distance. The handkerchief was then removed, and Marged found herself in a beautiful palace, lighted up by more candles than she could count: many noble-looking ladies and gentlemen were walking about, and a number of little children, as beautiful as angels, came bounding up to her.

The children were put under her charge, and her master gave her a box of ointment to put on their eyes. At the same time he gave her strict orders to wash her hands immediately after using the ointment, and not on any account to let a bit of it touch her own eyes. These injunctions Marged followed strictly, and for some time she was very happy. She sometimes thought, however, that it was odd that the household should always live by candlelight; and she wondered, too, that, grand and beautiful as the palace was, such fine ladies and gentlemen should never leave it. But so it was: no one ever went out but her master.

One morning she thought she would see what would happen if she applied just the teeniest, weeniest bit of ointment to the corner of her eye. Immediately, with the vision of that corner of her eye, she saw herself surrounded by fearful flames: the ladies and gentlemen looked like demons and the beautiful little children resembled hideous imps. Though with the other parts of her eyes she beheld everything as before, she could not help feeling much frightened, but she had enough presence of mind not to show any alarm. However, she took the first opportunity of asking her master's leave to go and see her father and mother. He said she might go, but she must again consent to be blindfolded. Accordingly a handkerchief was put over her eyes: she was again mounted on the coal-black horse behind her master, and was soon put down near her home. She slept with a Bible under her pillow every night after this, and it was a long time before she ventured to a hiring-fair again.

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