THERE was once upon a time a fair maid who lived in the island of Fayal. She was betrothed to a young man of the same island. One day she fell ill with a disease which baffled the skill of all the physicians. Their arts, the mourning of her betrothed, the prayers and tears of her mother, all seemed of no avail. It appeared that the fair maid would die.
Now it happened that in one of the nearby islands, St. Michael, there was a miracle-working image called the Santo Christo. The fair maid begged of her betrothed that he would go to St. Michael and procure some of the mysterious miracle-working sweat of the Santo Christo or some of the miraculous parings of the nails of the image, which had the power to heal any disease.
The young man gladly set out on the quest. On the boat which conveyed him to St. Michael, however, he met a maid with beauty and charm, a maid whose bright eyes made him forget the sad eyes of his betrothed.
When he arrived at his destination he thought only of singing gay songs beneath the balcony of his new love. The days flew by, and soon it was time for the boat to return to Fayal. He had forgotten the mission on which he had come, and he returned to the boat with no relics of the miracle-working Santo Christo.
The homeward journey was rough and stormy. Filled with fear of death at any moment, the young man remembered the fair maid of Fayal who even at that very hour might be dying. His conscience smote him.
"Oh, why did I allow another fair face to crowd out from my heart the image of my beloved?" he asked himself. "Faithless wretch that I am, what shall I say to my betrothed if good fortune and the sea permit me to stand once more at her side?"
The rough waves beat angrily against the side of the boat in answer. That night the storm ceased and in the morning it was fair and clear as the boat entered the beautiful harbor of Fayal under the shadow of Mt. Pico. With clear skies and smooth seas the young man's conscience became less troublesome. He resolved that he would not confess his deceit to his betrothed.
"If I told her it might make her grow worse so rapidly that she would die because of it," he said to himself.
Indeed, it was quite enough to have made the girl die of a broken heart, had she known the whole story.
Suddenly the youth's face clouded.
"What shall I say to my beloved as the reason why I have brought back to her neither the miracle-working sweat of the Santo Christo nor the miraculous nail parings?" he was asking.
His eye fell upon the boat's wooden side. Quickly he shaved off some fine parings of this wood. He wrapped them up carefully and took them to the fair maid of Fayal as if they were parings from the nails of the miracle-working image.
His betrothed's face shone with joy at his return. Tears of thankfulness filled her eyes when she saw the parings which he had brought her.
"How can I ever thank you for your faithfulness in this quest in my behalf, and the great love which prompted you to undertake this stormy, dangerous journey on the rough seas that I might once more be well?"
The young man did not enjoy hearing her speak of his love and faithfulness. He did not reply.
"No maid was ever blessed with so wonderful a lover," went on the happy girl.
"You are forgetting to take the parings," said the mother. "They will not cure you if you do not take them."
The fair maid of Fayal took the parings in a gourd full of water. She began to improve immediately and the next day she was entirely well.
"'Tis faith which saves and not parings," said her betrothed.