The Step-Mother and the Step-Daughter
(A Basque Tale)
A FATHER and his daughter were living together. The daughter told her father to marry again. The father said, "Why? you will be unhappy." "It is all the same to me; I prefer to see you happy." And after some time he marries again. This lady asked her husband to give her full power over this young girl to do what she will with her. The husband consents, and does not think any more about her; he did not even see her again. This lady says to the young girl, "If you do all I tell you, you will be the better for it." The king lived near their house, and one day her stepmother gave her the keys of the king's house and told her to go at such an hour of the night into the king's bed-room, "and without waking him you will bring me back his sash." The daughter did not like it at all, but in spite of that she goes off, and without any person seeing her, she returns home with the king's girdle. The next day the step-mother says to her step-daughter, "You must go again, and you must bring the king's watch chain." While she was taking it, the king moved in his bed, and the young girl is so frightened that she runs off, and loses her shoe at the door of the king's room. At the end of some days they hear that the king has made a proclamation that he will go from house to house with a shoe, and that she whom it fits perfectly shall be his wife. The king goes looking and looking, first of all, in the houses of the rich; but he had said that he would go into all the houses. He goes then to this gentleman's who had married again, because it was close at hand. The persons of his suite asked him why he went there, for they were only poor people. The king will go all the same. He finds this lady, who says that they are poor, and that she is ashamed to receive the king in her bed-room; but it was there she had her step-daughter very nicely dressed, with only one shoe on her feet. She was dazzling with beauty, and the king finds her very much to his taste. They are married immediately; he takes the father and step-mother to his house, and they all live happily, and this step-daughter owed her good fortune to her step-mother.
Webster's Comments on the Tale
There are two curious versions of these tales in Bladé's Contes Populaires Recueillis en Agenais (Paris, Baer, 1874), Nos. I. and VIII. Those who wish to compare others may follow up the references there given by Reinhold Köhler, on pp. 145 and 153; also those given at pp. 44 and 47 of Brueyre's Contes Populaires de la Grande Bretagne (Paris, Hachette, 1875).