Portugal | Pedroso: The Step-Mother

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The Step-Mother

THERE was once a widower who had a son and a daughter. The girl went to school, and the mistress was continually telling her to ask the father to marry her. The mistress had three daughters: one was one-eyed, the next one was lame, and the other was blind. The little girl would every day say to her father, when she came home, "Father, marry my mistress, for she gives me honey-drops." To this the father would answer, "Now she gives you honey-drops; by-and-bye she will give you gall-drops!" The father bought himself a hat, and, bringing it home, he said to his daughter, "When this hat wears out, I shall then marry your mistress." And he hung it up on a peg. The little girl went up to her mistress and recounted all that the father had said. The mistress said, "Then you must bring me the hat." When the father had gone out one day the little girl took the hat to the mistress, and she put it into an oven and tore it in several places. The girl then took it, and hung it up again. The father put it on one day, and it all came to pieces immediately. He then said to the daughter, "Now I shall marry your mistress, for my hat is completely worn out." But still he bought a pair of boots, and he said, "When these boots are worn out, I shall then marry." The girl again went up to her mistress and told her what the father had said; and she asked her to bring the boots, and she put them in the oven. The father one day went to put them on, and tore them in the act. He called his daughter to him and said, "Now I have no other remedy but to marry your mistress, for my boots are worn out." The marriage took place, but she had hardly become married when she began to ill-treat the little girl, and made her work all day, whilst the mistress's daughters did nothing whatever in the house. One day the father bought a farthing's worth of pine-nuts, and said, "My children come with me," and he took them to the wood. The son and daughter were eating their nuts, and dropping the shells as they went along on the road. They entered the wood, and as they came up to the foot of a tree the father said, "My children, remain here, and here I leave this gourd whilst it continues to sound, it is a sign that I am in the wood; when it shall stop, it is then a sign that I am no longer in the wood, but am coming back for you." And he went away. The two children remained alone; and as the wind struck the gourd, it kept sounding. They kept watching and looking at the gourd; but the brother kept saying, "Oh! sister, father can no longer be in the wood!" The girl replied, "But the gourd still keeps sounding." "It sounds because the wind strikes against it," rejoined the brother. They at last resolved to leave the wood, as the sun had nearly set; and they kept following the track of the nut-shells which they had laid on the road, and as long as they could see them they went right; but after a while the shells failed to be seen, and they consequently lost their way. At night-fall they met a little old woman, who said to them, "Oh I my children, what are you doing here?" They answered her, saying, "We are here because father brought us to the wood, and then left us to remain in it alone. He told us that whilst the gourd sounded it was a sign that he was still in the wood, and that when it ceased it was a sign that he was out of the wood, but was coming back for us. But the gourd kept sounding because the wind moved it. And he went away." The old lady was a fay, and she said to them, "Now, come along with me, my little children." She placed the boy out as a servant, and the girl she took home with her. She gave her a bason and a small bouquet of flowers, saying to her, "Listen: place yourself at this window, my child, holding in your hand this posygay and bason, and say, 'Spray of Intingil, it is now time that my love should come!'" The little girl did as she was bid. Every day she sat at the window holding the posy, and the bason placed by her side, whilst she repeated "Little Spray of Intingil, it is now time that my love should come." As soon as she finished these words a bird appeared and brought her much money, after which it flew away. With this money the girl bought many things, and jewelry and went very well dressed. The fay frequently bade her call for her whenever she should be in any trouble. Once that the girl was at the window, who should happen to pass? One of the mistress's daughters--the one-eyed one. She looked towards the window and she saw the girl, and immediately went to tell her mother how she had seen the girl so well dressed. The mistress, much surprised to hear it, asked her "How is it that, remaining in the wood as she did, wild beasts did not eat her up?" The daughter replied, "I do not know about that, but I do know that I saw her very well dressed at the window." A few days after, the lame daughter went and passed the house purposely, and saw the girl very well dressed sitting by the window with the posy of flowers and the bason standing on the window-sill, whilst she heard her repeat, "Little branch of Intingil, it is now time that my love should come." And when she had said this she saw the bird come and leave her much money. The lame girl returned home and her mother asked, "Well, did you see anything?" The girl replied, "I saw her at the window very richly clothed, but I saw nothing else." She did not, however, inform her mother that she had seen the bird come and bring her much money. The mistress then sent the blind girl. She proceeded to the house and heard the girl say, "Little Spray of Intingil, it is now time my love should come;" and she went home and said nothing. The one-eyed daughter then said, "Well, I will go once more, and I am sure I shall see something remarkable this time! "She took with her a handkerchief full of broken glass without telling any one, and on arriving at the house she hid herself; and soon heard the girl at the window repeat the words she was in the habit of saying, and also saw the bird come. The moment she saw the bird, the one-eyed daughter threw the handkerchief full of broken glass at the bird. The poor bird was much hurt and cut in many places, and bleeding very profusely fell into the bason. The girl did not see who had done the wicked deed, but in great distress of mind she summoned the fay. The fay came instantly she was called, and said, "Had you appealed to me sooner I could have saved the poor bird, but now I can do nothing, as the bird is dead!" The girl wept much for the loss of her little bird.

One day when the girl was at the window she saw a prince passing. The prince had scarcely fixed his eyes upon her than he said, "Oh! what a lovely maiden." And going into the house he asked the girl if she would marry him. The girl replied that she could not give him an answer until she should see the fay. She therefore summoned her, and told her what the prince had said to her. The fay replied that she consented to her marrying him. They were accordingly married, and ever after lived happily together.

The text came from:

Pedroso, Consiglieri. Portuguese Folk-Tales. Folk Lore Society Publications, Vol. 9. Miss Henrietta Monteiro, translator. New York: Folk Lore Society Publications, 1882. 
[Reprinted: New York: Benjamin Blom, Inc., 1969.]
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