AT STERZ, about an hour’s walk from Brixen, on the line from Innsbruck to Verona, close beneath the mountain called Rodeneck, there lived some fifty years ago in a fine farm-house a well-to-do young couple with one child. In all the villages round about an old beggar woman was much dreaded as a witch, and this woman came very often to the farm begging. The good people of the farm used to give her directly all she desired, just to rid themselves of her importunities. But one day the farm-labourers made up their minds to discover whether the old hag was really a witch or not, and after she had entered the room, they set a broom on end before the door. It was on a Saturday evening. When a broom is put upside down before a door--such is the superstition of the people--the witch cannot get out again.
When the hag therefore tried to get out, she saw the trick, and remained in the room until late at night. At last she said angrily to the peasant’s wife, “Sweep out the room; it is Saturday evening, and how comes it that you leave the room so long unswept?”
This she repeated many times, but always to no purpose, for the peasant’s wife knew about the trick; but when she saw that the hag was becoming tremendously angry and fierce, she was dreadfully frightened, and ordered the servant to take the broom and sweep out the room. Directly the servant took up the broom and removed it from the door, the hag darted out full of venom, hatred, and spite, and the most revengeful determinations.
And what a vengeance this was! She dried the cows, brought down storms and destroyed the crops, made their child hopelessly ill so that it died; the poor farmer went into a decline through grief, and his wife was misled over the Rodeneck by the diabolical creature, and broke both her arms and legs.
So cruel is the vengeance of a witch.