ONCE on a time there was a good-looking fisherman, young and intelligent. Every time that he went through the court of a certain Boyard,--Mariola, the daughter of this Boyard, would call him to her, purchase his fish, and give him money to ten times its value. So much money did he gain in this way, that he began to be indifferent to its possession and yet each day Mariola would still be a customer.
On one of these occasions, while she was handing him the money, she touched his hand and gave it a squeeze; the fisherman grew as red as a beet-root, and looked down, but regaining confidence, began to give himself airs, and twirl his moustache.
Gradually they entered into conversation, and she learned that he was unmarried, and became altogether charmed with the replies she drew from him. Although he was but a fisherman, she fell desperately in love with him, and giving him a purse of gold, she bade him go and buy clothing suitable for a gentleman, and then to come back to her to shew her if they were becoming to him.
After having bought a caftan, and other things fit for a real Boyard, he dressed himself in them, and came to exhibit himself to Mariola.
She almost failed to recognise him, for both his carriage and dress were far above one of his station, and she could no longer restrain the love which she had for him in her heart, and gave him to understand that he might be her husband if he wished. The fisherman hesitated, knowing that he was no match for a Boyard's daughter; but finding that she still insisted, with much bashfulness, and twirling his caciula (cap) from hand to hand, he eventually consented.
On hearing this astounding intelligence, the Boyard was very angry, saying that a fisherman was no match for his child; but as he loved Mariola so tenderly, and seeing that her heart was set upon the marriage, eventually he consented to her prayer.
"Mariola again gave a purse of gold to her intended, bidding him buy wedding garments and all that was necessary. Shortly he presented himself, clad in a rich suit embroidered thickly with gold; Mariola conducted him to her father's presence, and they were at once affianced.
Not many days after this, the wedding took place, and they took their seats at the banquet given in honour of the occasion.
There was a rule in those days, that the newly-married pair should each eat from one lightly boiled egg; the fisherman cut a thin slice of bread, and was going to dip it into the egg, when Mariola caught his arm, saying, "No! I must eat of it first; I am a Boyard's daughter, and you are only a fisherman."
No reply did he make, but rising quietly from the table, quitted the banqueting hall, to the astonishment of many of the guests, who did not know that he had been a fisherman.
The bride was very troubled at the mistake she had made, and sat biting her lips with dismay and chagrin. Being unable to support her position, she withdrew to her bedroom, and locked herself in.
All night long sleep would not come to her, and she could only think of her absent bridegroom.
At early morning she went to her father to demand permission to go in search of her husband. Her father tried to dissuade her from taking such a step, but in vain, and she set off on her errand.
She traversed the town, the country, villages, country again--again villages; until at length, in one of these small villages, she saw him meanly dressed, and acting as servant at a wayside inn. Approaching him quickly, she began to address him,
but he would not appear to know her, and continued his occupation. She entreated him only to speak one word to her, but he only shrugged his shoulders, and turned away his head.
The master of the inn seeing this interruption, called, "How is it that you interfere with my servant, and prevent his working? Don't you see that he is dumb? If you are as respectable as your appearance would show, I advise you to go away and leave him alone."
"He is not dumb," cried she, "he is my husband, and left me for a simple misunderstanding."
The villagers, who had collected around, were astonished at what she said, for she did not look like one who would be poking fun at them.
The innkeeper was also incredible, saying, that a man who was able to speak, would not remain a whole week without uttering a word. In truth, all around took him to be a mute, and used to converse with him by signs. He had already gained their goodwill, by his usefulness and good temper.
Mariola seeing that no one would believe her story, offered to make a bet, that in three days she would make her husband speak, if she were allowed always to be at his side; that if she did not succeed she would consent to be hung. This bet was
accepted and legalised by the Prefect of the village.
The following day was to be the first of the trial the fisherman at the beginning of this, knew nothing of the bet, though later on, he got a whisper of it.
Mariola was constantly entreating for one little word. "My darling," she said, "I have been very wrong; I married you because I loved you, I bind myself never again, in all our life-time, to commit such a fault; soften your heart and speak one word to me." Yet no answer--only a shrug of the shoulders, as if he did not understand what she was saying.
The first day passed--came the second day; that passed too, and yet not a sound.
On the third day, Mariola began to tremble with fear, and followed the fisherman wherever he went, still begging him to speak only one word to her. He, on the other hand, fearing to be overcome by her tears, fled from her presence.
The three days have passed, all the villagers are taken up with the affair of the dumb servant at the inn, and the pretty looking girl, who had mistaken him for some one else, and brought this misfortune on herself.
The scaffold was erected, the people had congregated
together to see the end of this tragedy; the officials were there, who, against their will, were bound to carry out the punishment.
The executioner approached Mariola, and led her to the scaffold, saying, that as she had failed to make the dumb man speak, she must accept the forfeit of her life.
Sighing, she turned her head once more towards her impassive husband, but seeing no yielding from him, she prepared herself to die. Loosening her hair, making the sign of the cross, she commended herself in prayer to God. All the spectators were moved at the sight. On the steps of the scaffold, with the Priest at her side, once more she turned towards the fisherman, crying, "My dear husband, pray come to my rescue, one word from you will suffice." Shaking his head, he looked in another direction.
With the noose in his hand, waited the executioner; soon he adjusted it round Mariola's pretty neck-one more minute and all would have been over; but the fisherman, stretching forth his hand, called--"Stop!"
All the people were struck with astonishment, and tears of joy rolled down their cheeks. The executioner withdrew the noose, and the fisherman, looking
severely at Mariola, asked, "Will you again taunt me with being a fisherman?" With great emotion she cried, "Forgive me, my clear husband, I own my fault, and will never wound your feelings again." "Let her come down," said he, "for she is indeed my wife;" and taking her by the hand, he led her back to their home, where their life was one banquet of happiness and prosperity in future.