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Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith / Laboulaye's Fairy Book
(This file was produced from images generously made
available by The Internet Archive)


_Laboulaye's_ FAIRY BOOK

_Illustrated by_

Edward G.

_Translated by_

Mary L. Booth

_Introduction by_

Kate Douglas Wiggin



Copyright, 1866, 1920, by Harper & Brothers

* * * * *














* * * * *






HOUSE " 88


EFFECT " 100






* * * * *



There was once a green book, deliciously thick, with gilt-edged pages
and the name of the author in gilt script on the front cover.

Like an antique posy ring, it was a "box of jewels, shop of rarities";
it was a veritable Pandora's box, and if you laid warm, childish hands
upon it and held it pressed close to your ear, you could hear, as
Pandora did, soft rustlings, murmurings, flutterings, and whisperings
from the fairy folk within. For this was a fairy book--Edouard
Laboulaye's "Tales," and its heroes and heroines became first the
daily companions, and then the lifetime possession, of the two little
girls to whom it belonged.

From the New England village where it was originally given to them, it
traveled to the far West and its tales were told to countless
immigrant children of San Francisco, whose great eyes opened wider
still as they listened, breathless, to stories beloved by their
ancestors. In later years the green volume journeyed by clumsy,
rattling stage and rawboned nags to Mexico, and the extraordinary
adventures of "Yvon and Finette," "Carlino," and "Graceful" were
repeated in freshly learned Spanish, to many a group of brown-cheeked
little people on the hillsides of Sonora.

And now, long, long afterward, there stands on a shelf above my desk
the very selfsame worn green volume, read and re-read a hundred times,
but so tenderly and respectfully that it has kept all its pages and
both its covers; and on this desk itself are the proofs of a new
edition with clear, beautiful print and gay pictures by Edward

To be asked to write an introduction to this particular book seems
insufferable patronage; yet one would do it for love of Laboulaye, or
for the sake of one's own "little past," or to draw one more young
reader into the charmed circle that will welcome these pages.

The two children who adored Laboulaye's "Tales" possessed many another
fairy book, so why did this especial volume hold a niche apart in the
gallery of their hearts?

Partly, perhaps, because of the Gallic wit and vivacity with which the
tales are told, for children are never too young to appreciate the
charms of style.

You remember, possibly, the French chef who, being imprisoned with no
materials save the tools of his trade, and commanded on pain of death
to produce an omelette, proudly emerged at last, bearing a savory dish
made out of the sole of his shoe?

Of even such stuff Laboulaye could have concocted a delectable tale;
but with Brittany, Bohemia, Italy, Dalmatia, Hungary, and Spain for
his storehouses, one has only to taste to know how finely flavored are
the dishes he sets forth.

In his preface to the first American edition Laboulaye writes a letter
to Mlle. Gabrielle Laboulaye, aged two! In it he says: "When you throw
away this book with your doll, do not be too severe with your old
grandfather for wasting his time on such trifles as fairy stories.
Experience will teach you that the truest and sweetest things in life
are not those which we see, but of which we dream." Happy the children
who have this philosophy set before them early in life.

Like the fairy tales Robert Louis Stevenson remembered, these of
Laboulaye's have "the golden smell of broom and the shade of pine,"
and they will come back to the child whenever the Wind of Memory

In common with the stories of Charles Perrault, literary parent of the
fairy tale, Laboulaye's charming narratives have a certain unique
quality due to the fact that they were intended and collected for the
author's own children, were told to them round the fireside in the
evening, and so received at first hand the comment and suggestion of a
bevy of competent, if somewhat youthful, critics.

It is said that there is a great scarcity of fairy folk in modern
France; and that, terrified by the thunders of the Revolution, they
left their unhappy country in a body during its stormy years, first
assembling in grateful concourse around the tomb of Perrault, upon
whose memory they conferred the boon of immortality.

If this story is true--and the last reported act of the fairies on
leaving France makes it appear so--then we may be sure that a few of
the more hardy and adventurous fays skipped back again across the
border and hid themselves in Laboulaye's box of jewels, where they
give to each gem an even brighter sheen and a more magical luster.


_August, 1920._


On the Kerver


_A Tale of Brittany_

[Illustration: ]


Once upon a time there lived in Brittany a noble lord, who was called
the Baron Kerver. His manor-house was the most beautiful in the
province. It was a great Gothic castle, with a groined roof and walls,
covered with carving, that looked at a distance like a vine climbing
over an arbor. On the first floor six stained-glass balcony windows
looked out on each side toward the rising and the setting sun. In the
morning, when the baron, mounted on his dun mare, went forth into the
forest, followed by his tall greyhounds, he saw at each window one of
his daughters, with prayer-book in hand, praying for the house of
Kerver, and who, with their fair curls, blue eyes, and clasped hands,
might have been taken for six Madonnas in an azure niche. At evening,
when the sun declined and the baron returned homeward, after riding
round his domains, he perceived from afar, in the windows looking
toward the west, six sons, with dark locks and eagle gaze, the hope
and pride of the family, that might have been taken for six sculptured
knights at the portal of a church. For ten leagues round, all who
wished to quote a happy father and a powerful lord named the Baron

The castle had but twelve windows, and the baron had thirteen
children. The last, the one that had no place, was a handsome boy of
sixteen, by the name of Yvon. As usual, he was the best beloved. In
the morning, at his departure, and at evening, on his return, the
baron always found Yvon waiting on the threshold to embrace him. With
his hair falling to his waist, his graceful figure, his wilful air,
and his bold bearing, Yvon was beloved by all the Bretons. At twelve
years of age he had bravely attacked and killed a wolf with an ax,
which had won him the name of _Fearless_. He deserved the title, for
never was there a bolder heart.

One day, when the baron had stayed at home, and was amusing himself by
breaking a lance with his squire, Yvon entered the armory in a
traveling dress, and, bending one knee to the ground, "My lord and
father," said he to the baron, "I come to ask your blessing. The house
of Kerver is rich in knights, and has no need of a child; it is time
for me to go to seek my fortune. I wish to go to distant countries to
try my strength and to make myself a name."

"You are right, Fearless," replied the baron, more moved than he
wished to appear. "I will not keep you back; I have no right to do so;
but you are very young, my child; perhaps it would be better for you
to stay another year with us."

"I am sixteen, my father; at that age you had already fought one of
the proudest lords of the country. I have not forgotten that our arms
are a unicorn ripping up a lion, and our motto. Onward! I do not wish
the Kervers to blush for their last child."

Yvon received his father's blessing, shook hands with his brothers,
embraced his sisters, bid adieu to all the weeping vassals, and set
out with a light heart.

Nothing stopped him on his way. A river appeared, he swam it; a
mountain, he climbed it; a forest, he made his way through it with the
sun for a guide. "_On--the Kerver!_" he cried, whenever he met with an
obstacle, and went straight forward in spite of everything.

For three years he had been roaming over the world in search of
adventures, sometimes conquering, sometimes conquered, always bold and
gay, when he received an offer to go to fight the heathen of Norway.
To kill unbelievers and to conquer a kingdom was a double pleasure.
Yvon enlisted twelve brave comrades, freighted a ship, and hoisted
from the mainmast a blue standard with the unicorn and motto of the

The sea was calm, the wind fair, and the night serene. Yvon,
stretched on the deck, watched the stars, and sought the one which
cast its trembling light on his father's castle. All at once the
vessel struck upon a rock; a terrible crash was heard; the sails fell
like tinder; and an enormous wave burst over the deck and swept away
everything upon it.

"_On--the Kerver!_" cried Yvon, as soon as his head appeared above the
water, and he began to swim as tranquilly as if he had been bathing in
the lake of the old castle. Happily the moon was rising. Yvon saw, at
a little distance, a black speck among the silvery waves--it was land.
He approached it, not without difficulty, and finally succeeded in
gaining a foothold. Dripping wet, exhausted with fatigue, and out of
breath, he dragged himself on the sand, then, without more anxiety,
said his prayers and went to sleep.


In the morning, on awaking, Yvon tried to discover in what country he
had been cast. He saw in the distance a house as large as a church,
with windows fifty feet in height. He walked a whole day before
reaching it, and at last found himself in front of an immense door,
with a knocker so heavy that it was impossible for a man to lift it.

Yvon took a great stone and began to knock. "Come in," cried a voice
that sounded like the roar of a bull. At the same instant the door
opened, and the little Breton found himself in the presence of a
giant not less than forty feet in height.

"What is your name, and what do you want here?" said the giant, taking
up Yvon between his thumb and finger and lifting him from the ground
so as to see him better.

"My name is Fearless, and I am seeking my fortune," answered Yvon,
looking at the monster with an air of defiance.

"Well, brave Fearless, your fortune is made," said the giant, in a
mocking tone. "I am in need of a servant and I will give you the
place. You can go to work directly. This is the time for leading my
sheep to the pasture; you may clean the stable while I am gone. I
shall give you nothing else to do," added he, bursting into a laugh.
"You see that I am a good master. Do your task, and, above all things,
don't prowl about the house, or it will cost you your life."

"Certainly I have a good master; the work is not hard," thought Yvon,
when the giant was gone. "I have plenty of time to sweep the stable.
What shall I do meanwhile to amuse myself? Shall I look about the
house? Since I am forbidden to do so, it must be because there is
something to see."

He entered the first room, and saw a large fireplace in which a great
pot was hanging, suspended from a hook. The pot was boiling, but there
was no fire on the hearth.

"What does this mean?" thought Yvon; "there is some mystery here." He
cut off a lock of his hair, dipped it into the pot, and took it out
all coated with copper.

"Oh, oh!" cried he, "this is a new kind of soup; anybody that swallows
it must have an iron-clad stomach."

He went into the next room; there also a pot was suspended from a
hook, and boiling without fire. Yvon dipped a lock of hair into it,
and took it out all coated with silver.

"The broth is not so rich as this in the Kerver kitchen," thought he,
"but it may have a better taste."

Upon this, he entered the third room. There also a pot was suspended
from a hook, and boiling without fire. Yvon dipped a lock of hair into
it, and took it out all coated with gold. It shone so brightly that it
might have been mistaken for a sunbeam.

"Good!" cried he. "In our country the old women have a saying, 'Everything
gets worse and worse'; here it is just the contrary--everything gets
better and better. What shall I find in the fourth room, I wonder--diamond

He pushed open the door and saw something rarer than precious stones.
This was a young woman of such marvelous beauty that Yvon, dazzled,
fell on his knees at the sight.

"Unfortunate youth!" cried she, in a trembling voice, "what are you
doing here?"

"I belong to the house," answered Yvon; "the giant took me into his
service this morning."

"His service!" repeated the young girl. "May Heaven preserve you from

"Why so?" said Yvon. "I have a good master; the work is not hard. The
stable once swept, my task is finished."

"Yes, and how will you set to work to sweep it?" said the lady. "If
you sweep it in the usual way, for every forkful of dung that you
throw out of the door, ten will come in at the window. But I will tell
you what to do. Turn the fork and sweep with the handle, and the dung
will instantly fly out of itself."

"I will obey," said Yvon; upon which he sat down by the young girl and
began to talk with her. She was the daughter of a fairy, whom the
wretched giant had made his slave. Friendship soon springs up between
companions in misfortune. Before the end of the day Finette (for that
was the lady's name) and Yvon had already promised to belong to each
other if they could escape from their abominable master. The
difficulty was to find the means.

Time passes quickly in this kind of talk. Evening was approaching when
Finette sent away her new friend, advising him to sweep the stable
before the giant came home.

Yvon took down the fork and attempted to use it as he had seen it
done at his father's castle. He soon had enough of it. In less than a
second there was so much dung in the stable that the poor boy knew not
which way to turn. He did as Finette had bid him; he turned the fork
and swept with the handle, when, behold! in the twinkling of an eye
the stable was as clean as if no cattle had ever entered it.

The task finished, Yvon seated himself on a bench before the door of
the house. As soon as he saw the giant coming he lolled back in his
seat, crossed his legs, and began to sing one of his native airs.

"Have you cleaned the stable?" asked the giant, with a frown.

"Everything is ready, master," answered Yvon, without troubling
himself to move.

"I am going to see for myself," howled the giant. He entered the
stable grumbling, found everything in order, and came out furious.

"You have seen my Finette," cried he; "this trick did not come from
your own head."

"What is myfinette?" asked Yvon, opening his mouth and shutting his
eyes. "Is it one of the animals that you have in this country? Show it
to me, master."

"Hold your tongue, fool," replied the giant; "you will see her sooner
than you will want to."

The next morning the giant gathered his sheep together to lead them
to the pasture, but before setting out he ordered Yvon to go in the
course of the day in search of his horse, which was turned out to
graze on the mountain. "After that," said he, bursting into a laugh,
"you can rest all day long. You see that I am a good master. Do your
task; and, above all things, don't prowl about the house or I will cut
off your head."

Yvon winked his eye as the giant left. "Yes, you are a good master,"
said he, between his teeth. "I understand your tricks; but, in spite
of your threats, I shall go into the house and talk with your Finette.
It remains to be seen whether she will not be more mine than yours."

He ran to the young girl's room. "Hurrah!" cried he; "I have nothing
to do all day but to go to the mountain after a horse."

"Very well," said Finette. "How will you set to work to ride him?"

"A fine question," returned Yvon. "As if it was a difficult thing to
ride a horse! I fancy that I have ridden worse ones than this."

"It is not so easy as you think," replied Finette; "but I will tell
you what to do. Take the bit that hangs behind the stable door, and,
when the animal rushes toward you breathing fire and smoke from his
nostrils, force it straight between his teeth; he will instantly
become as gentle as a lamb, and you can do what you please with him."

"I will obey," said Yvon; upon which he sat down by the side of
Finette and began to talk with her. They talked of everything; but,
however far their fancy strayed, they always came back to the point
that they were promised to each other and that they must escape from
the giant. Time passes quickly in this kind of talk. The evening drew
nigh. Yvon had forgotten the horse and the mountain, and Finette was
obliged to send him away, advising him to bring back the animal before
his master's arrival.

Yvon took down the bit that was hidden behind the stable door and
hastened to the mountain, when, lo! a horse almost as large as an
elephant rushed toward him at full gallop, breathing fire and smoke
from his nostrils. Yvon firmly awaited the huge animal, and, the
moment he opened his enormous jaws, thrust between them the bit; when,
lo! the horse instantly became as gentle as a lamb. Yvon made him
kneel down, sprang on his back, and tranquilly returned home.

His task finished, Yvon seated himself on the bench before the door of
the house. As soon as he saw the giant coming, he lolled back in his
seat, crossed his legs, and began to sing one of his native airs.

"Have you brought back the horse?" asked the giant, with a frown.

"Yes, master," answered Yvon, without taking the trouble to move. "He
is a fine animal and does you credit. He is gentle, well trained, and
as quiet as a lamb. He is feeding yonder in the stable."

"I am going to see for myself," howled the giant. He entered the
stable, grumbling, found everything in order, and came out furious.

"You have seen my Finette," he said; "this trick did not come from
your own head."

"Oh, master," returned Yvon, opening his mouth and shutting his eyes,
"it is the same story over again. What is this myfinette? Once for
all, show me this monster."

"Hold your tongue, fool," returned the giant; "you will see her sooner
than you will want to."

The third day at dawn the giant gathered his sheep together to lead
them to the pasture; but, before setting out, he said to Yvon:

"To-day you must go to the bottomless pit to collect my rent. After
that," continued he, bursting into a laugh, "you may rest all day
long. You see that I am a good master."

"A good master, so be it," murmured Yvon, "but the task is none the
less hard. I will go and see my Finette, as the giant says; I have
great need of her help to get through to-day's business."

When Finette had learned what was the task of the day, "Well," said
she, "how will you go to work to do it?"

"I don't know," said Yvon, sadly; "I have never been to the bottomless
pit, and, even if I knew the way there, I should not know what to ask
for. Tell me what to do."

"Do you see that great rock yonder?" said Finette; "that is one of the
gates of the bottomless pit. Take this stick, knock three times on the
stone, and a demon will come out all streaming with flames, who will
ask you how much you want. Take care to answer, 'No more than I can

"I will obey," said Yvon; upon which he took a seat by the side of
Finette and began to talk with her. He would have been there till this
time if the young girl had not sent him to the great rock, when the
evening drew nigh, to execute the giant's commands.

On reaching the spot pointed out to him, Yvon found a great block of
granite. He struck it three times with the stick, when, lo! the rock
opened and a demon came forth all streaming with flames.

"What do you want?" he cried.

"I have come for the giant's rent," answered Yvon, calmly.

"How much do you want?"

"I never want any more than I can carry," replied the Breton.

"It is well for you that you do not," returned the man in flames.
"Enter this cavern and you will find what you want."

Yvon entered, and opened his eyes wide. Everywhere he saw nothing but
gold, silver, diamonds, carbuncles, and emeralds. They were as
numerous as the sands on the seashore. The young Kerver filled a sack,
threw it across his shoulder, and tranquilly returned home.

His task finished, our Breton seated himself on the bench before the
door of the house. As soon as he saw the giant coming he lolled back
in his seat, crossed his legs, and began to sing one of his native

"Have you been to the bottomless pit to collect my rent?" asked the
giant, with a frown.

"Yes, master," answered Yvon, without taking the trouble to stir. "The
sack is right there before your eyes; you can count it."

"I am going to see for myself," howled the giant. He untied the
strings of the sack, which was so full that the gold and silver rolled
in all directions.

"You have seen my Finette," he cried; "this trick did not come from
your own head."

"Don't you know but one song?" said Yvon, opening his mouth and
shutting his eyes. "It is the old story, myfinette, myfinette. Once
for all, show me this thing."

"Well, well," roared the giant, with fury, "wait till to-morrow and
you shall make her acquaintance."

"Thank you, master," said Yvon. "It is very good of you; but I see
from your face that you are laughing at me."


The next morning the giant went out without giving Yvon any orders,
which troubled Finette. At noon he returned without his flock,
complaining of the heat and fatigue, and said to the young girl:

"You will find a child, my servant, at the door. Cut his throat, put
him into the great pot to boil, and call me when the broth is ready."
Saying this, he stretched himself on the bed to take a nap, and was
soon snoring so loudly that it seemed like thunder shaking the

Finette prepared a log of wood, took a large knife, and called Yvon.
She pricked his little finger; three drops of blood fell on the log.

"That is enough," said Finette; "now help me to fill the pot."

They threw into it all that they could find--old clothes, old shoes,
old carpets, and everything else. Finette then took Yvon by the hand
and led him through the three antechambers, where she ran in a mold
three bullets of gold, two bullets of silver, and one bullet of
copper, after which they quitted the house and ran toward the sea.


"_On--the Kerver!_" cried Yvon, as soon as he saw himself in the
country. "Explain yourself, dear Finette; what farce are we playing

"Let us run--let us run!" she cried; "if we do not quit this wretched
island before night, it is all over with us."

"_On--the Kerver!_" replied Yvon, laughing, "and down with the giant!"

When he had snored a full hour, the giant stretched his limbs, half
opened one eye, and cried, "Is it ready?"

"It is just beginning to boil," answered the first drop of blood on
the log.

The giant turned over, and snored louder than ever for an hour or two
longer. Then he stretched his limbs, half opened one eye, and cried
out: "Do you hear me? Is it almost ready?"

"It is half done," answered the second drop of blood on the log.

The giant turned over, and slept an hour longer. Then he yawned,
stretched his great limbs, and cried out, impatiently:

"Isn't it ready yet?"

"It is ready now," answered the third drop of blood on the log.

The giant sat up in bed, rubbed his eyes, and looked around to see who
had spoken; but it was in vain to look; he saw nobody.

"Finette," howled he, "why isn't the table set?"

There was no answer. The giant, furious, sprang out of bed, seized a
ladle, which looked like a caldron with a pitchfork for a handle, and
plunged it into the pot to taste the soup.

"Finette!" howled he, "you haven't salted it. What sort of soup is
this? I see neither meat nor vegetables."

No; but, in return, he saw his carpet, which had not quite all boiled
to pieces. At this sight he fell into such a fit of rage that he could
not keep his feet.

"Villains!" said he, "you have played a fine trick on me; but you
shall pay for it."

He rushed out with a stick in his hand, and strode along at such a
rate that in a quarter of an hour he discovered the two fugitives
still far from the seashore. He uttered such a cry of joy that the
earth shook for twelve leagues around.

Finette stopped, trembling. Yvon clasped her to his heart.

"_On--the Kerver!_" said he; "the sea is not far off; we shall be
there before our enemy."

"Here he is! here he is!" cried Finette, pointing to the giant not a
hundred yards off; "we are lost if this charm does not save us."

She took the copper bullet and threw it on the ground, saying,

"Copper bullet, save us, pray;
Stop the giant on his way."

And behold, the earth cracked apart with a terrific noise, and an
enormous fissure, a bottomless pit, stopped the giant just as he was
stretching out his hand to seize his prey.

"Let us fly!" cried Finette, grasping the arm of Yvon, who was gazing
at the giant with a swaggering air, defying him to come on.

The giant ran backward and forward along the abyss, like a bear in his
cage, seeking a passage everywhere and finding none; then, with a
furious jerk, he tore up an immense oak by the roots and flung it
across the gap. The branches of the oak nearly crushed the children as
it fell. The giant seated himself astride the huge tree, which bent
under his weight, and crept slowly along, suspended between heaven and
earth, entangled as he was among the branches. When he reached the
other side, Yvon and Finette were already on the shore, with the sea
rolling before them.

Alas! there was neither bark nor ship. The fugitives were lost. Yvon,
always brave, picked up stones to attack the giant and to sell his
life dearly. Finette, trembling with fear, threw one of the silver
bullets into the sea, saying,

"Silver bullet, bright and pliant,
Save us from this frightful giant."

Scarcely had she spoken the magic words when a beautiful ship rose
from the waves like a swan spreading its white wings. Yvon and Finette
plunged into the sea; a rope was thrown them by an invisible hand,
and when the furious giant reached the shore the ship was receding
rapidly at full sail, leaving behind it a long furrow of shining foam.

Giants do not like the water. This fact is certified to by old Homer,
who knew Polyphemus; and the same observation will be found in all
natural histories worthy of the name. Finette's master resembled
Polyphemus. He roared with rage when he saw his slaves about to escape
him. He ran hesitatingly along the shore; he flung huge masses of rock
after the vessel, which happily fell by the side of it and only made
great black holes in the water; and, finally, mad with anger, he
plunged head foremost into the sea and began to swim after the ship
with frightful speed. At each stroke he advanced forty feet, blowing
like a whale, and like a whale cleaving the waves. By degrees he
gained on his enemies; one more effort would bring him within reach of
the rudder, and already he was stretching out his arm to seize it,
when Finette threw the second silver bullet into the sea and cried, in

"Silver bullet, bright and pliant,
Save us from this frightful giant."

Suddenly from the midst of the foam darted forth a gigantic swordfish,
with a sword at least twenty feet in length. It rushed straight toward
the giant, who scarcely had time to dive, chased him under the water,
pursued him on the top of the waves, followed him closely whichever
way he turned, and forced him to flee as fast as he could to his
island, where he finally landed with the greatest difficulty, and fell
upon the shore dripping, worn out, and conquered.

"_On--the Kerver!_" cried Yvon; "we are saved."

"Not yet," said Finette, trembling. "The giant has a witch for a
godmother; I fear that she will revenge on me the insult offered to
her godson. My art tells me, my dear Yvon, that if you quit me a
single instant until you give me your name in the chapel of the
Kervers I have everything to dread."

"By the unicorn of my ancestors," cried Yvon, "you have the heart of a
hare and not of a hero! Am I not here? Am I going to abandon you? Do
you believe that Providence has saved us from the fangs of that
monster to wreck us in port?"

He laughed so gaily that Finette laughed in turn at the terror that
had seized her.


The rest of the voyage passed off admirably. An invisible hand seemed
to impel the ship onward. Twenty days after their departure the boat
landed Yvon and Finette near Kerver Castle. Once on shore, Yvon turned
to thank the crew. No one was there. Both boat and ship had vanished
under the waves, leaving no trace behind but a gull on the wing.

Yvon recognized the spot where he had so often gathered shells and
chased the crabs to their holes when a child. Half an hour's walk
would bring him in sight of the towers of the old castle. His heart
beat; he looked tenderly at Finette and saw, for the first time, that
her dress was fantastic and unworthy of a woman about to enter the
noble house of Kerver.

"My dear child," said he, "the baron, my father, is a noble lord,
accustomed to be treated with respect. I cannot introduce you to him
in this gipsy dress; neither is it fitting that you should enter our
great castle on foot like a peasant. Wait for me a few moments, and I
will bring you a horse and one of my sister's dresses. I wish you to
be received like a lady of high degree. I wish my father himself to
meet you on your arrival, and hold it an honor to give you his hand."

"Yvon, Yvon," cried Finette, "do not quit me, I beg you. Once returned
to your castle, I know that you will forget me."

"Forget you!" exclaimed Yvon. "If any one else were to offer me such
an insult I would teach him with my sword to suspect a Kerver. Forget
you, my Finette! You do not know the fidelity of a Breton."

That the Bretons are faithful no one doubts; but that they are still
more headstrong is a justice that none will deny them. It was useless
for poor Finette to plead in her most loving tones; she was forced to
yield. She resigned herself with a heavy heart, and said to Yvon:

"Go without me, then, to your castle, but only stay long enough to
speak to your friends; then go straight to the stable, and return as
soon as possible. You will be surrounded by people; act as if you saw
no one, and, above all, do not eat or drink anything whatever. Should
you take only a glass of water, evil would come upon us both."

Yvon promised and swore all that Finette asked, but he smiled in his
heart at this feminine weakness. He was sure of himself; and he
thought with pride how different a Breton was from those fickle
Frenchmen whose words, they say, are borne away by the first breath of
the wind.

On entering the old castle he could scarcely recognize its dark walls.
All the windows were festooned with leaves and flowers within and
without; the courtyard was strewn with fragrant grass; on one side was
spread tables groaning under their weight; on the other, musicians,
mounted on casks, were playing merry airs. The vassals, dressed in
their holiday attire, were singing and dancing and dancing and
singing. It was a great day of rejoicing at the castle. The baron
himself was smiling. It is true that he had just married his fifth
daughter to the Knight of Kervalec. This marriage added another
quartering to the illustrious escutcheon of the Kervers.

Yvon, recognized and welcomed by all the crowd, was instantly
surrounded by his relatives, who embraced him and shook him by the
hand. Where had he been? Where did he come from? Had he conquered a
kingdom, a duchy, or a barony? Had he brought the bride the jewels of
some queen? Had the fairies protected him? How many rivals had he
overthrown? All these questions were showered upon him without reply.
Yvon respectfully kissed his father's hand, hastened to his sisters'
chamber, took two of their finest dresses, went to the stable, saddled
a pony, mounted a beautiful Spanish jennet, and was about to quit the
castle, when he found his relatives, friends, and vassals all standing
in his way, their glasses in their hands, ready to drink their young
lord's health and his safe return.

Yvon gracefully thanked them, bowed, and made his way by degrees
through the crowd, when, just as he was about to cross the drawbridge,
a fair-haired lady, with a haughty and disdainful air, a stranger to
him, a sister of the bridegroom, perhaps, approached him, holding a
pomegranate in her hand.

"My handsome knight," said she, with a singular smile, "you surely
will not refuse a lady's first request. Taste this pomegranate, I
entreat you. If you are neither hungry nor thirsty after so long a
journey, I suppose at least that you have not forgotten the laws of

Yvon dared not refuse this appeal. He was very wrong. Scarcely had he
tasted the pomegranate when he looked round him like a man waking from
a dream.

"What am I doing on this horse?" thought he. "What means this pony
that I am leading? Is not my place in my father's house at my sister's
wedding? Why should I quit the castle?"

He threw the bridle to one of the grooms, leaped lightly to the
ground, and offered his hand to the fair-haired lady, who accepted him
as her attendant on the spot, and gave him her bouquet to hold as a
special mark of favor.

Before the evening was over there was another betrothed couple in the
castle. Yvon had pledged his faith to the unknown lady and Finette was


Poor Finette, seated on the seashore, waited all day long for Yvon,
but Yvon did not come. The sun was setting in the fiery waves when
Finette rose, sighing, and took the way to the castle in her turn. She
had not walked long in a steep road, bordered with thorn-trees in
blossom, when she found herself in front of a wretched hut at the door
of which stood an old woman about to milk her cow. Finette approached
her and, making a low courtesy, begged a shelter for the night.

The old woman looked at the stranger from head to foot. With her
buskins trimmed with fur, her full red petticoat, her blue jacket
edged with jet, and her diadem, Finette looked more like an Egyptian
princess than a Christian. The old woman frowned and, shaking her fist
in the face of the poor forsaken girl, "Begone, witch!" she cried;
"there is no room for you in this honest house."

"My good mother," said Finette, "give me only a corner of the stable."

"Oh," said the old woman, laughing and showing the only tooth she had
left, which projected from her mouth like a bear's tusk, "so you want
a corner of the stable, do you! Well, you shall have it if you will
fill my milk-pail with gold."

"It is a bargain," said Finette, quietly. She opened a leather purse
which she wore at her belt, took from it a golden bullet, and threw it
into the milk-pail, saying,

"Golden bullet, precious treasure,
Save me, if it be thy pleasure."

And behold! the pieces of gold began to dance about in the pail; they
rose higher and higher, flapping about like fish in a net, while the
old woman, on her knees, gazed with wonder at the sight.


When the pail was full the old woman rose, put her arm through the
handle, and said to Finette, "Madam, all is yours, the house, the cow,
and everything else. Hurrah! I am going to the town to live like a
lady with nothing to do. Oh dear, how I wish I were only sixty!" And,
shaking her crutch, without looking backward, she set out on a run
toward Kerver Castle.

Finette entered the house. It was a wretched hovel, dark, low, damp,
bad-smelling, and full of dust and spiders' webs--a horrible refuge
for a woman accustomed to living in the giant's grand castle. Without
seeming troubled, Finette went to the hearth, on which a few green
boughs were smoking, took another golden bullet from her purse, and
threw it into the fire, saying,

"Golden bullet, precious treasure,
Save me, if it be thy pleasure."

The gold melted, bubbled up, and spread all over the house like
running water, and behold! the whole cottage, the walls, the thatch,
the wooden rocking-chair, the stool, the chest, the bed, the cow's
horns--everything, even to the spiders in their webs, was turned to
gold. The house gleamed in the moonlight, among the trees, like a star
in the night.

When Finette had milked the cow and drank a little new milk, she threw
herself on the bed without undressing, and, worn out by the fatigue
of the day, fell asleep in the midst of her tears.

Old women do not know how to hold their tongues, at least in Brittany.
Finette's hostess had scarcely reached the village when she hastened
to the house of the steward. He was an important personage, who had
more than once made her tremble when she had driven her cow into her
neighbor's pasture by mistake. The steward listened to the old woman's
story, shook his head, and said it looked like witchcraft; then he
mysteriously brought a pair of scales, weighed the guineas, which he
found to be genuine and of full weight, kept as many of them as he
could, and advised the owner to tell no one of this strange adventure.
"If it should come to the ears of the bailiff or the seneschal," said
he, "the least that would happen to you, mother, would be to lose
every one of these beautiful bright guineas.

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Library mainpage -> Wiggin, Kate Douglas Smith -> Laboulaye's Fairy Book