Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional | Annotated Tale

COMPLETE! Entered into SurLaLune Database in October 2018 with all known ATU Classifications.

Blanca the Haughty

THE Count of Tolosa had a beautiful daughter called Blanca, and he had promised her in marriage to the son of the Count of Barcelona. Both were young, and rich, and noble; and all the people from both provinces gathered together to celebrate the wedding with every testimony of interest in their happiness. But Blanca was very self-willed; she had always had every thing her own way--a noble palace in the midst of an enchanting country, plenty of servitors to do her bidding, many knights to contend for her favour; and she seemed to fancy that the whole earth and all who lived in it were made for her, and that all must conform themselves to her desires. Nothing was ever good enough to please her.

               Her father had thought she would grow out of these foolish ways as she became older and wiser, and had never duly corrected her; and she, meanwhile, became more practised in them, and chose the occasion of her marriage-fête for the wildest of all her pranks.

               While all were seated in the great hall of the castle at the high banquet, and all lips were overflowing with praises, perhaps also with envy at her happiness, the young count, offering her a basket of rich fruits, proposed to divide with her a fine pomegranate. Blanca condescended to give him permission to do so, but the count with all his dexterity could not avoid letting one of the luscious ruby pips fall upon the table; then, as if afraid of leaving a spot before her eyes as a testimony of his awkwardness, he hastily took up the pip, and put it to his mouth.

               Blanca, who had all the morning been on the look out in vain for some captious pretext on which to found a quarrel, and show off her haughty, petulant airs, immediately caught at this one, and exclaimed, she would never be bound to such a parsimonious husband; it was an act unworthy of a noble; a man who was afraid of losing the value of a pomegranate pip must be a sorry mate indeed; he would not do for her!

               It was vain, the young count tried to pacify her by explaining how utterly false was the view she had taken. Equally vain, that her father reasoned with her on the childishness of her conduct, or that her companions pleaded in favour of the disconcerted bridegroom. Blanca would not listen to reason, and the poor young count found himself at last left alone, an object of derision, or at least of pity, to the whole assembly.

               He really loved Blanca, and had before this day put up with many caprices out of his affection for her; but this was not only a tax on his patience and good temper, it was an affront on his name and lineage which must not be borne. And yet he loved Blanca too much to resort to any act of hostility which might put a further barrier between them. Uncertain how to act, he went out and rode away, spurring his horse, not caring whither he went, so that he could go far away from the face of his fellow-men and muse over his grief. But all the time there ran ringing in his head,--

"No more a noble count, I trow,     
A humble shepherd seem I now!"

                though he could not think what the lines meant, yet he went on till he had got far away into a distant forest, where all was savage and wild, and where there was nothing to remind him of the scenes he had passed through. There he alighted from his good steed, and threw himself on the hard ground. The sword which he had been wont to raise so bravely against the enemies of his country clanked listlessly by his side, the sharp rocks cut his cheeks, and his noble blood flowed from the rents, while he felt them not, for his heart bled with other and deeper wounds; but all the time there ran in his head the lines,--

"No more a noble count, I trow,     
A humble shepherd seem I now!"

                After he had lain there some time, and the passion of his sorrow had so far cooled down that he began to take notice of the objects around him, he observed two milk-white doves perched lovingly side by side on the branches over his head, yet fluttering full of fear and trouble. Full of his own recent suffering, he felt singular compassion for the two frightened birds; and searching for the cause of their distress, he perceived a great hawk hovering in the air above, in ever-nearing circles, and with glaring eyes preparing to pounce on his luckless prey. The count at once understood their danger, and picking up a stone, threw it with such force and dexterous aim, that it brought down the greedy hawk dead upon the ground. The doves no sooner found themselves delivered from their pursuer, than they gave every token of gladness and delight, hopping from branch to branch, fluttering away and pursuing each other, and then again loving each other in the gentlest way.

               The count could not bear to see their happiness, it reminded him of his loss; so he got up and wandered on into a dark cave where he could see nothing, and there laid him down; and the lines running in his head lulled him to sleep,--

"No more a noble count, I trow,     
A humble shepherd seem I now!"

                Then in his dream he saw one of the fair doves appear to him in the form of a beautiful woman; her face was of the softest pink and white, like the face of the sky at sunrise, and her eyes were so bright and lustrous that they illumined the whole cave.

               "Caballero, caballero!" said the bright vision; "you do not recognize me, I fear; nevertheless, I am indeed one of those poor doves whose lives you saved from the wicked hawk but now; and if I and my mate live in love of each other, it is to you we owe the boon. I am come to pay the debt I owe you, and I know there is only one way in which I can do it, and that is by telling you how to get for your mate Blanca, for whose sake you are now so sad. I promise you that in a very little time you shall have it all your own way with her, and she shall become as humble as she now is haughty. Meanwhile, take this ring, which I have enchanted on purpose for you, and whatever you ask of it, you will find that it will do it for you."

               Then the beautiful vision disappeared, and the cave immediately became dark and gloomy as before.

               The moment the count woke, the memory of his vision rose up before him, and he lost no time in feeling whether he had the ring safe. There it was all right on his finger; and when he felt it, he put his confidence in the promise of the vision, and hastened to go back out of the cave and set to work. He had no sooner found his way again into daylight, than he took off his ring, and thus addressed it:--

               "Aniellico, aniellico [1]! now is the time come to show your devotion to me. You know how Blanca has scorned me, and how I fear to go near her again, lest she should put some fresh affront in her wilfulness upon me, and yet I cannot bear to stay away from her. Tell me, ring, what I shall do."

               "Attend, attend," answered the ring; "watch now what you see passing before your eyes."

               As the ring spoke, the count saw a moor-hen scudding away across the plain, and a cock as fast as he could following after her. The hen seemed determined to have nothing to say to the cock; but the cock was so persevering that he came up to her, and made her stand still and listen to him, and then he first knocked her about a good deal, and then soothed her down, and at last they both went off together quite amicably; and the ring sang,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                "I see," said the count, "what you mean; but I do not at all see how you mean me to carry out your plan."

               "Leave that to me," said the ring; "only do as I advise you, and according to the instructions of my lady the dove, I will give you all you wish. And now, in the first instance, you must take off all this fine armour, and all your noble dress, and put on this disguise of a shepherd; and then take this loom, as if you were going, like the poor shepherd, to weave the wool of your flock; and now come along."

               Then, as they went along together, the ring told him all that he was to do, and what to say, and it had hardly completed its instructions when they arrived at the gate of the gardens of the Count of Tolosa, every now and then interrupting its discourse to sing,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
         Of woman!"

                A gruff old gardener came out to see who called; and when he saw it was only a country bumpkin of a shepherd, he was gruffer than ever, and bid him begone.

               "Gardener, gardener!" said the disguised count in his most insinuating accents, "don't you think, now, if you were to let me come in and help you, you would get through your work much more easily? You have a hard time of it, and get little rest. I am young and strong, and should soon accomplish what you have to do, and then you need not turn out so early in the morning, nor sit up so late at night watching this gate."

               "Pastorcillo, pastorcillo [2]!" rejoined the old gardener, quite tamed by this appeal, "I cannot say Nay to such an offer; so come in."

               The count lost no time in obeying; and at once began fulfilling his promise, by taking the sheep out of the fold and leading them out to pasture. In doing this, he took care to direct them straight towards the windows of the palace. Arrived there, he sat down and placed his loom, and began weaving away diligently after the manner of poor shepherds, and singing the while,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                He had not been sitting there long, before he observed a postern in the wall which separated the castle-keep from the private gardens, open. How his heart beat! Might it not be Blanca coming out for a walk? No, it was only one of her attendants, who had come to see what the shepherd was weaving.

               "Tell me, Don Villano [3]," she cried, as she came near him, "what wondrous kind of stuff, is that you are weaving? Is it a heavenly or an earthly texture?"

               "It is a stuff much too fine for such as you. It is such a stuff as has not its like in all the world, and cannot be bartered for cloth of gold; for whoever wears this stuff, however old they may be, immediately appears young, and if already young, it makes them beautiful too."

               And then he went on weaving, without paying any attention to her, any more than if he had not seen her, nor seeming to hear any of her questions or entreaties, and singing the while,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                When the dueña found she could make no impression on him she ran off at last to call Blanca, who was not yet out of bed, crying long before she got within hearing, "Infantina, Infantina [4]! get up and come down quickly, for here in your gardens is a shepherd who is weaving a stuff which cannot be matched in all the world, and cannot be bartered for cloth of gold; for whoever puts on a garment made of it will instantly appear young, how old soever they may have been before; and if they are already young and beautiful, it will make them much more so."

               Now the waiting-maid, it must be observed, was neither young nor pretty, and she was most desirous to get possession of the stuff; and as the shepherd would not give it to her, she was dying to make her young mistress get it from him.

               Blanca's curiosity was sufficiently whetted by the description, to get up in all haste and come down, and see the strange shepherd herself.

               The count's heart beat indeed, as she came near; and she looked so handsome, and so haughty, that the sight brought back the memory of all her cruelty, so that he was divided between the inclination to throw himself at her feet and beg her to come and be reasonable, and the resolve to follow the advice of the ring, and give her a lesson that should make her a good wife. But the ring adjured him to keep quite quiet, and not even look up at her.

               "God be with you, this morning, villano!" she exclaimed, rather loud, with a little sharp cough, to attract his attention.

               "May He have you in His good keeping, niña [5]!" rejoined the disguised shepherd, without looking up from his loom.

               Blanca was not accustomed to be treated in this way; and she felt very much inclined to call some of the servants to chastise the supposed shepherd for his rudeness. Nevertheless, there was something about his manner that both awed as well as interested her to an unaccountable degree, and far too much to let her give up diving farther into the mystery that surrounded him without another attempt.

               "Villano, villano!" she said, at last, "tell me, I pray, the tissue you are weaving, who taught you to weave it?"

               "Seven fairies, lady," replied the feigned shepherd, "who live in seven towers, and who never sleep or dine; but are constantly weaving and singing this refrain, which I sing continually too, lest I should forget it:--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                And with that he went on working away as before.

               "I suppose you want to sell it, don't you, villano," continued Blanca, trying not to look vexed. "Now if you like, I'll buy it of you, and you may ask what you like; money, or jewels, or whatever you will, and I will pay the price." And when she had said that, she thought such a bait would be sufficient to make him obsequious.

               But far from this, he drew himself up proudly, and told her that all her money and jewels were useless to him; that whoever makes up his mind to contemn riches is richer than all the world; and he who is content with the food and raiment earned by his daily toil cannot be bribed by gold. "But," he continued, speaking a little lower and more softly, "there is one condition on which I part with my fine weft, and only one. The woman I give it to must be my wife!" and then he resumed his indifferent manner again, and went on weaving, and singing the while,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                Blanca seemed riveted to the spot. She had long mourned--quite in secret and in silence, the loss of her fond admirer, the Count of Barcelona, and often her heart was--quite in secret and in silence--cut to the quick with the thought, "Suppose he should never come back to me!" Though she appeared outwardly gay and haughty as before, this care was continually preying on her mind; she treasured up, quite in secret and in silence, every little thing that could remind her of him; and whenever a stranger came to her father's castle, though she pretended scarcely to look at him, she scrutinized him through and through, to see if he could be bearer of any tidings from the absent count. Now there was something about the shepherd that re-awakened all her sorrows, and all her hopes. She did not know what it was. She was too agitated to suspect that it was he himself, and yet she felt so drawn towards him, she could not tear herself away. The audacity of such words was great, however, coming from one in his humble garb; and she felt she must administer some strong reproof; so, assuming a show of all the indignation she could call to her aid, she half turned away, exclaiming, "Begone, villano! nor dare to approach me. If you come but one step nearer, I will call my father's men to kill you!"

               "Soperbica, soperbica [6]!" replied the shepherd, with most provoking coolness. "You are very proud now; but I swear to you that you will not always take that tone. You will talk to me very differently some day. For so the seven fairies promised me when they taught me the song,--

"The cock o'ercomes, though somewhat rough,     
So man, no less, the coy rebuff          
          Of woman!"

                The dueña, who had been standing by, watching this scene with the greatest anxiety, intent only on getting a chance of possessing some of the weft which was to make her young and beautiful, was driven beyond endurance by the turn matters were now taking. So she called her young mistress aside and descanted so earnestly on the incomparable powers of the cloth and the little probability of ever meeting with such a chance again if she neglected this one, and threw in, too, such clever hints about easy ways of getting over the difficulty,--that the simple shepherd could easily be deceived, that she could pretend she was going to listen to his attentions, though it need only be pretence, and in the meantime she would get his priceless treasure out of him,--that poor little Blanca was quite bewildered. She was, indeed, so anxious to see more of the mysterious shepherd, and so possessed with the vague fancy that there was some connexion between him and the Count of Barcelona, that it was no very difficult matter to overcome her scruples, particularly as the dueña promised to smooth the way a little for her.

               The count, who had also been a little frightened, lest he had spoken too abruptly, was also willing to receive the dueña's mediation, and in a very little time Blanca had obtained possession of the texture; but the count had also played his game so successfully, that Blanca was quite under his influence, and could think and dream of nothing else, nor rest till she had an opportunity of meeting him again. Of course this was not difficult, and the dueña was ready enough to assist her, as she thought the shepherd might have some other precious gift to impart.

               Nor was she mistaken. The count consulted his ring as to what he should do next, and the ring gave him a fowl which laid pearls for eggs, and the chickens that came out of them had feathers like gold.

               When Blanca saw this, she could not forbear coming down into the garden to ask for the beautiful fowl. The shepherd was feeding her with gold corn, and he went on throwing down the grains without taking any notice of her approach, but singing,--

"My fair begins to yield;     
I'm safe to win the field!"

                "Pastorcillo, pastorcillo! give me the beautiful fowl!" said Blanca imploringly. "I should so like to have her. I shall cry if you won't give her pastorcillo;" she continued, as the count turned on his heels, and continued singing,--

"My fair begins to yield;     
I'm safe to win the field!"

                "Pastorcillo! listen," repeated the poor child sadly, for though she did not recognize the count, he had so enthralled her, that she felt towards the supposed shepherd as she had never felt towards any but him.

               "Oh, cease that horrid song, and speak to me," she said at last, and so humbly, that the count thought it was time to put in a word.

               "Will you come away with me? because otherwise it is no use talking," he said, somewhat abruptly.

               "Never!" retorted Blanca, indignantly; "and you had better take care, and not talk so loud, for if my father overheard you, he would send and have you strung up."

               But the shepherd did not care a bit, he had in the meantime spoken to her father, and told him what his plan was; and received from him the hearty approval of his scheme for bringing his incorrigible daughter to reason; so he sang out louder than before,--

"My fair begins to yield;     
I'm safe to win the field!"

                Blanca had never been treated in this way, and did not know what to make of it. She turned to go away, but then the dread stole over her, suppose the shepherd should go away as mysteriously as he had come, and then there would be no one left to remind her of the count. She could not bear to think of it: she turned, and said faintly,--

               "Pastorcillo! give me the beautiful fowl; you must give it me."

               "I am going away, Blanca," he replied, but less sternly than before. It was the first time he had called her by her name, and it seemed as if she heard the count speaking.

               "Going away!" she exclaimed, in blank despair; "oh, you must take me with you!"

               "Take you with me!" repeated the shepherd. "No, you said you wouldn't come."

               "Oh, but I did not know what I was saying!"

               "It's too late now," replied the count.

               "Oh, but I shall come, whether you will or no," she said pertly; for every time he spoke his words seemed to rivet more firmly the chain which bound her to her affianced husband, it seemed as if he was his spectre come to avenge him.

               "I cannot help it, if you choose to do that," was all his answer, and he turned to go.

               "Take me, Pastorcillo!" she said once more.

               "You would not like to come where I have to go," answered the supposed shepherd. "My dwelling is a dark cave, where no light ever enters. My bed is the sharp rock, which cuts through to the bones. My drink is water, muddy and cold; and my meat is grief and mourning. No companions are there where I live, for all men and women hold my way of living in dread."

               When Blanca heard this, she turned pale; nevertheless, she could not see him go without her, and still asked to go.

               The shepherd walked on without saying a word. Blanca followed him as if drawn by magic.

               Away they went, sad and silent: far, far away; over rocks and declivities, through streams and torrents, past briars and brakes. For months they went on thus; the count going on before,--Blanca, sad and silent, after him. They never entered any town; and their only food was the berries they found in the wood, and the water of the brooks they crossed. Blanca's fair soft skin was burnt brown by the sun and parched up by the wind; her hands were torn by the thorns, and her feet bleeding from the unevennesses of the way. At last a day came when she could go no farther. She sank down fainting on the earth, but she was so humble now, she did not so much as proffer a word of complaint.

               "What is the matter, Blanca?" inquired the count. "Do you give up following me any farther?"

               "Pastorcillo! mock me not. You see I would follow you gladly, but you see too my strength is at an end; I can go no farther;" and with that her senses failed.

               When the count saw her in this condition, he took pity on her, and, lifting her up in his arms, carried her to a shepherd's hut at no great distance along the moor, and there the good wife attended to her, putting her in her poor bed, and gently trying to bring her to again. But it was all of no use, she continued in the swoon, and the poor peasant's restoratives were of no avail.

               When the count saw this, he was in despair, and sitting down under shadow of a rock, he took out his ring to ask it what was to be done, now being almost ready to reproach it for having led him to be so cruel.

               But the ring told him to be of good heart, and all the promises of the milk-white dove would be fulfilled. "Blanca has now learnt a lesson, and acquired a habit of submission which she will not forget all through her life. And besides, after she has given such strong proofs of love and devotion towards you, she will have no inclination to resume the provoking ways with which she tormented you before, so you may safely discover yourself to her now."

               Then the good ring suddenly pronounced some words near the peasant's hut, and it became a fine palace, and the bed on which Blanca was lying became covered with beautiful embroidered coverlets, and all around were clothes fit for a countess to wear. The Count, too, was provided with a shining suit of armour and a prancing charger, and by its side a palfrey for his bride, and a train of noble knights and dames to attend them. Over Blanca, too, the ring said some words, and her consciousness came back to her, and when she saw the Count standing by her side, looking just as he did the day he dropped the pomegranate pip, it seemed as if she had never seen him in any other garb, only that he kept singing a verse the ring had taught him--

"She spurned me, bridegroom, in her pride!     
Then with a shepherd would abide;    
Yet loved me still, for I have tried     
Her love, as gold is purified!"

till she begged him not to sing it, but so gently and submissively, that he could not resist. So he lifted her on to her palfrey, and the whole noble train moved on towards his father's palace, where she lived by his side all her life, a model of a devoted wife.



[1] Dear little ring.

[2] Good little shepherd.

[3] Sir Country-bumpkin.

[4] Little princess.

[5] Child.

[6] Proud little thing.

Bibliographic Information

Tale Title: Blanca the Haughty
Tale Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Book Title: Patrañas; or, Spanish Stories, Legendary and Traditional
Book Author/Editor: Busk, Rachel
Publisher: Griffith and Farran
Publication City: London
Year of Publication: 1870
Country of Origin: Spain
Classification: ATU 900: King Thrushbeard

Prev Tale
Next Tale

Back to Top