THERE was a man who was very rich. He wished to get married, but the young girls of this country would not marry him, because he had such a bad reputation. One day he sent for a vine-dresser, who had three daughters, and said to him,
"I want to marry one of your three daughters; if I do not marry them, so much the worse for you--I will have you killed."
This vine-dresser goes away home in sadness. He tells his two eldest daughters what Mr. Laur-Cantons had said to him. The daughters tell him that they will not marry; it is useless to ask them. The father stays indoors in his grief, and his youngest daughter comes home. He tells her, too, what has happened, and this one says to her father,
"Do not be so sad; as for me, I will marry him, and nothing shall happen to you."
The father and the daughter go off then. He marries this young girl. And, as Mr. Laur-Cantons was very rich, he had quantities of beautiful dresses made for her. He had gold by hogsheads full, and this young girl was very happy with this gentleman.
After some time the king summoned him to go to the army, and he was obliged to go. He said to his wife, "Amuse yourself well," and he leaves her plenty of money.
His wife says, "No," she will remain at home till he comes back, and will not see anybody until his return. Mr. Laur-Cantons set off for the court. When he was there, a merchant attacks him on purpose to vex him and put him in a passion, and tells him that he will get into his wife's house, and he wagers all that he has in his shop, and Mr. Laur-Cantons bets 100,000 francs that he will not get in. This merchant then goes off to the lady's house. He knocks at the door, and says that he comes with a letter from her husband, and begs her to open the door. But they do not open it. They tell him to put the letter in the hole; and, after having remained all night at the door in vain, he goes off to the forest in a rage, kicking and stamping about with his feet, because he had lost all that he possessed. An old woman passes by there, and says to him,
"What is the matter with you, that you are in such great trouble?"
"Be off with you, quickly, or I will give you two good boxes on the ear." This woman was a witch. This man was sorry a moment afterwards for not having listened to this old woman, and he goes off after her:
"Just now I treated you very badly, but I must now tell you my trouble. I have lost all that I possess in a bet with Mr. Laur-Cantons that I would get into his wife's house, but I have passed the whole night there, and have not been able to get in."
"If you have only that it is nothing, and I will arrange that."
She goes with a basket of apples and knocks at the door, and says that she is the lady's nurse, and asks them to open. They open for her. The young lady shows her her dresses for the marriage day and for the next day too, her gold chain, and all her pretty things. While she is putting by her dresses the witch takes her gold chain, which had the lady's name on it; and the lady did not observe it, and did not miss anything when she shut up the others, because she had full confidence in her, believing that she was really her nurse, since she said so.
The witch goes off to find the merchant and gives him the gold chain. The merchant gives her as a reward a complete set of new clothes. The merchant goes off joyfully to find Mr. Laur-Cantons, and shows him from a distance the gold chain. Imagine what was the rage of the gentleman. He goes off home immediately. He knocks at the door, saying that it is the master who is there; he enters, and says to his wife, with harsh voice, to go upstairs and put on her wedding dress and her gold ornaments. She comes down without putting it on at all, and he says to her:
"Where are your gold ornaments?"
"Not being able to find them, I have put on those of the next day."
When he has got on horseback he tells her to get up behind him. This young lady, having suspected something, had taken a great deal of money with her. When they had gone a short way he dismounts. He puts his wife into a chest and throws her into the sea. On the sea-shore there are always people looking about, and when the chest was seen they caught hold of it as best they could. They begin to knock it, wishing to open it. She says to them from inside:
"Gently, gently, there is someone alive inside here."
After they had opened it she gave them a handsome present, and goes to an hotel, and dresses herself like a gentleman. She asks if there is anyone seriously ill in the town. They say to her:
"For the last seven years the king's daughter is so."
She goes off to seek flowers and herbs in the fields, and she makes acquaintance with the king's physicians; and one day she goes with them to the king's house, and as they come out she says to one of them:
"I, I could cure that young lady."
The king hears that, and bids her to come as soon as possible. At the first visit she gives her something to drink. As soon as she has drunk she moves her head. She gives her to drink a second time, and she sits up on the bed. The third time she gives her to drink she leaps right out of bed. Think what rejoicings there were in the house of the king! He did not know what to do to reward her, but she says to him that she wishes nothing, only she would be made governor of this city. She asks the names of the people at the court. They tell her a great many names, and that of Mr. Laur-Cantons among others. When she has got installed in her palace, she has Mr. Laur-Cantons brought up before her between two policemen. She asks him what he has done with his wife. He says to her that he knows nothing about her.
She points to the gallows:
"If you do not tell the truth, that shall be your reward."
He tells her then how that a merchant had come to tempt him; how he had made a bet, and that he had come back with her gold chain, and then, having got into a passion, he had thrown her into the sea in a chest. She sends to fetch this merchant. He, too, tells how, in order not to lose all he had, and not being able to get into the house, a woman had brought him the chain. The merchant did not tell the truth at the first questioning--it was after having been threatened that he confessed it. She sends for the witch between eight policemen, and asks her how she had got the gold chain from the lady's house. She tells the whole truth as it had happened. As the governor had had seven barrels of powder placed one above the other, they put the witch on the top, and set fire to the barrels from below. The witch goes up in the air with the fire, and nobody sees her any more. They hang the merchant as well. Mr. Laur-Cantons was on his knees before the governor, begging pardon of him for his wicked actions. She pardons him, and made him governor and she remained governess. She sent for her father, and they lived very happily.
If that is not true, may it happen (to me) like that.
Louise Amyot, more than 70 years old.