The Pomegranate Seed by Anonymous

At a time when Languedoc was not as yet under the power of the fleur-de-lis, there was at Toulouse a certain count, by name Benato, who, besides being endowed by nature with numberless advantages, was blessed with the most beautiful children that any prince could boast of; besides two sons, he had a daughter younger than either, who according to every body's opinion was the most handsome, modest, and agreeable lady that was ever known. In one thing alone heaven seemed unpropitious to him, for while he was living most happily with his wife, a sister of the count of Provence, she died before she had attained her thirty-fifth year, to his very great grief, and that of the country around. Being on the point of death, she called the count, her husband, and after humbly requesting his forgiveness of such neglect, or omissions, she might have been guilty of towards him, she recommended earnestly, with tears in her eyes, her dear children to him; but above all, her daughter, whose name was Bianca, adding, that as a last favor which he would grant her in this world, she begged he would make her a solemn promise, and with full determination never to violate it; which was, not to marry her daughter to any one, although it were even the king of France himself, unless after seeing him, and becoming acquainted with him, she should like him; adding, that to a young woman there was no blessing equal to the full liberty of selecting him who is to be her companion through life, and to whom she is to be true until death. The count having heard the kind and motherly entreaties of his beloved wife, considering these were the last words she would probably utter, and the last favor he could bestow, after many sorrowful tears, promised her solemnly that her wishes should be fulfilled, and that all should be as she desired. He then tried to soothe her last moments, though he himself was, perhaps, in greater need of consolation; he received her expiring breath, and with due honors had her interred in the cathedral of Toulouse, as may be yet proved by the tombstone.

In those times, when Catalonia had not yet fallen into the hands of the king of Arragon and Castile, one Don Fernando, who was count of Barcelona, from the proximity of the states, and their rivalship in glory, had long waged war against the count of Toulouse, with mutual injury to one another; the one being aided by the king of Spain, and the other by the king of France; nevertheless, as we very often see it happen, that wars entered upon by princes, from vain and ambitious views, come to an end, either from weariness, or poverty of the parties; they at last, though late, having considered that their warfare was nothing more than ruining themselves to enrich their neighbours, and affording satisfaction to their enemies, came to the determination to make such a peace as would be most honourable and least injurious to the mediators; and in order the better to cement the peace entered upon, it was said, that it would be highly desirable that the families so long divided, and now at peace, should be more closely united by an alliance, seeing that the count of Toulouse had but one daughter among his three children, and the count of Barcelona only one son among his. It therefore did not become necessary to argue long on the subject of this marriage, Salse and Perpignan, as some say, being the dowry, and, as others say, plenty of gold, the which was lent him, upon a mortgage of some possessions near Arli and Terrascone, by the count of Provence, who greatly had enriched his estates by the excellent government of Romeo. These things concluded, there remained nothing more to do, than for the Count of Toulouse, remembering the solemn promise made to his wife, to say all should be done, provided the manners of the young count should meet with his daughter's approbation, in favour of whom he had pledged himself never to marry her without her full approbation. This appeared to all a very trifling circumstance, and by no means likely to thwart their hopes, inasmuch as this youth, besides ample possessions, noble birth, and equality of rank, possessed an elegant form, great talents, and gentlemanly manners. It was scarcely to be credited that he should have been born at Barcelona; but it was so, and is still considered as a wonder, for the like was never seen there since, or ever will be.

The young count was then sent by his father to the said nuptials, so earnestly wished for by both countries, in great pomp, and attended by a suitable retinue to Toulouse, where he was received with that cordiality and honour which was due to the favourite son of so great a lord, blended with French politeness and Spanish dignity, which from their proximity to each other, they were well acquainted with. These first ceremonies having been attended to, the beautiful daughter of the count, elegantly dressed, was presented to him. The lady, who had spared no pains to adorn her natural charms in every possible way, received him in so courteous and fascinating a manner, that the young count was amazed, enraptured, and totally subdued by love and admiration; and, if at first by reports he was ambitious of possessing her, he now was inflamed, and scarcely able to command his feelings. The lady, previously informed of every thing by her father, now eyed him with scrutiny from top to toe, narrowly watched all his movements, as well as he did those of the lady, only she with that timidity and modesty befitting a female, while he gazed at her with all the ease and freedom of an enamoured prince. After this introduction, the dinner room was thrown open, where a table was spread, covered with all the delicacies that the season and country could afford.

Dinner being over, pomegranates were brought in golden vases, according to the custom of that country, where they are remarkably fine, to clear and sweeten the mouth and breath from the taste of the various viands. The count having taken some, how it happened none can tell, but he dropt one single seed, which he dexterously caught up before it reached the ground, the which he did, as he said himself, and others affirmed, merely to shew his quickness and dexterity, and put it in his mouth. The lady, whether fate ordained it so, or that the action appeared to her unseemly, or ungentleman-like in a person of his rank, was much vexed and disgusted at it, and thus argued in her own breast:—This is what I have often heard said by those who certainly have means of judging; that the Catalonian people are the most sordid, miserly, and covetous set of our western countries. Although I have not perceived in him, as yet, any of the Catalonian ways, yet he may have put on this countenance, according to the practices of the Catalonians, to deceive people. Poor, indeed, is he in address, that cannot, for a short time, assume the manners and language of a cavalier, at least till he has encompassed his object; but avarice, as I have often heard one of my tutors say, as it is the mother and nurse of every vice, so it has this particular property, that it cannot totally be disguised or concealed, even by the greatest hypocrite, because he, who is by nature of such a disposition, begrudges not only his own property, but feels as much annoyed in seeing even that of his enemy's wasted, as a liberal man would feel in seeing his taken from him; and if this knight is such, and I verily believe him to be so, considering that amidst plenty he cannot bear to lose even one single seed, how much more will he be avaricious of his own gold;—what then would be my case?—can there be a more distressing thing for a generous and noble spirited woman, than to have a sordid and avaricious husband? This would be heavy sorrow to me, and the sport of others. Heaven forbid it should ever be my case. I would sooner die an old maid, than live with such a being in continual wretchedness and sorrow for my own folly. Let my father do what he pleases, I know that she must be a fool indeed, who suffers herself to be persuaded to what would make her miserable.

Having thus resolved, she ceased to bestow a thought more on the subject. All the fetes and rejoicings having ended, the count of Toulouse, one day craving the permission of the Catalonian knight, took his daughter by the hand and led her into another room, and here, with all the tenderness of a kind father, asked her what were her sentiments respecting this young Catalonian. She firmly and deliberately told him, she would rather live single all her days, than be united to a man whose principles and manners were so directly opposite to her own. On hearing this, the old man was sorely grieved, considering that this match having been proposed for the advantage of the whole country, by not having effect, it might be the cause of ruin and eternal quarrels between the rival states. Having asked his daughter the cause of her dislike, and being answered, he thought it so very trifling a circumstance, that he could not help laughing. He several times attempted to dissuade her, but she protested that if, contrary to the sacred promise made to her mother, any attempt should be tried to force her inclinations, she would, rather than consent, destroy herself with her own hands. The old count, remembering his promise to his dying wife, and moved by the love he bore his daughter, said, with tears in his eyes, "if thou art so firmly fixed, be it even as thou wilt; nor shall there be any persuasion used with thee by me." Having left the room, he endeavoured, in the politest and best way, to excuse himself with the count, observing on the dispositions of women, and particularly girls, and how often they were bent on that which was most against their own happiness, and at last told the count of Barcelona, that she was totally averse to the match. This was a most grievous disappointment to the count, more particularly as the possibility of such a thing had never entered his head, and that he considered the thing as done in his own mind. However, concealing his wrath and disappointment, he said, smiling, this is not an extraordinary case, and many a greater man than myself has before now been the sport of a woman's caprice, but, that since that was the case, he would press no further, but take his leave, and depart for Barcelona on the morrow He only begged, in consideration for the trouble he had had in coming, and the disappointment he had met with, that the count would tell him what it was that his daughter so mightily disliked in him. The old man was ashamed to tell it, or to keep the secret; at length, however, he told him; nor could the Catalonian help laughing, and he replied, "well, for the future when I pay my court to the ladies, I will go when pomegranates are out of season, since, as Ceres was deprived of a daughter, I am of a wife." He praised the count for so piously attending to the promise he had made his wife, and his love for his daughter, in abstaining from using compulsion towards her, and assured him this circumstance should not cause any dissension or alteration in their late friendly intercourse. They then entered into conversation on other subjects during the rest of the day; the count, concealing the rancour of his heart against the lady, took leave of her and others as kindly as he could, and departed, making the speediest journey to Catalonia, and having arrived on the confine of his territories, he dismissed his retinue, giving them to understand he meant to go on a pilgrimage not many leagues off, (by some thought to have been to our Lady of Monserrato) and, as on such occasions all pomp and shew are dismissed, he took with him only two of his most intimate friends; and informed them of the whole scheme he had planned; they left their horses, and journeyed on foot to Toulouse, being each of them in disguise, the count in the habit of a pedler, carrying before him a box of trinkets and jewels strung to his shoulders, for he had bought many valuable jewels, and intermixed among them some precious stones of his own, which he had brought with him as presents to the bride. He did not include those of greatest value, lest he should be found out by having so much rich property, and having taken off his beard, which was then worn very long among the great in Catalonia, he entered Toulouse alone, having despatched his two friends to Barcelona, considering that was the best means whereby he might have the good fortune of seeing and speaking to his lady. Thus he used to go, morning and evening, about Toulouse, selling his commodities to such as chose to buy them, but he mostly took care to place himself facing the palace where the count of Languedoc dwelt, in hopes of speaking to the lady, whom at first from love, and now from spite, he constantly dwelt upon. It was not many days, before that one evening the day having proved intensely hot, he beheld his lady, beautifully dressed in white, sitting with many of the first ladies at her door; he humbly bowing to them, asked whether any of the company chose to purchase some of the trinkets he had; offering his fine goods at a very cheap rate. The countess and other ladies agreeing, as is the custom of the country, to look at them, called him to them, and asking him what he had to sell, they all got around him, some looking at one thing, others at another. He, unaccustomed to the trade, was scarcely able to answer them; and ever endeavouring to answer the countess, evaded many answers to the others. After selling many articles they had chosen, he went his way, vesper time being near. He continued his attendance thus for several days, and became a very great favourite, to the annoyance of the other pedlers, who whenever they offered their goods, were answered, "No! no! we will be true to our Navarro," for he had told the ladies he was of Navarre, not being able so to disguise his language, as to appear a Frenchman, yet he would not be known for a Spaniard.

It happened that, after a few days, seeing a good opportunity, the count, unheard by any other person, said to one of the ladies of the countess whom he observed to be her greatest favourite, and much beloved by her, and to whom he had made some little trifling presents out of his wares, that he had at home one of the most valuable and extraordinary jewels, from its peculiar properties, that had ever been seen in the world, but that he never brought it about with him, lest he should be robbed of it, and that he valued it so, that were it to save his life, he never would part with it. Without saying any more he departed. The lady was distracted till she could tell the countess what Navarro had said to her. When bed-time came, while she undressed her mistress, she related to her the wonderful properties and beauty of the jewel, adding, as is usual with such people, something of her own to the truth, and saying, that if she was the countess, she would move heaven and earth but she would have it, although he swore he never would part with it, because it was a remedy against every evil, except death. Thus by such praising, and such accounts, she made her so eager to possess it, that the lady could not rest the whole night for thinking of this wonderful jewel. Scarcely had the dawn appeared, but she sent her maid to Navarro, to conjure him in her name, and use every means to induce him to sell it, and should she not be able to succeed, that she might persuade him, at least, to show it to her; because, on being seen, it perhaps might lose much of its value in her mind, and thereby lessen the violent desire she felt to have it. She, of course, went to Navarro, and related all that had passed. He was highly delighted at what he heard, and began again to relate the very wonderful effects and power of this jewel, swearing most positively he would sooner part with his life than with it; but that, in compliment to her, he would allow the countess a view of it. The waiting-maid, finding she could not succeed further, accepted the offer; and having fixed the time of the day when the lady could see it, she went back to the countess, and related what had been determined upon. At the appointed time Navarro came with the beautiful jewel. It was a diamond of so large a size, and of so extraordinary a shape, as she had never seen before; he said it had been brought to the old count of Barcelona by certain Catalonian corsairs, who had been cruising beyond the Straights of Gibraltar, and had taken it from some Normans, who proving the weakest in the fight, were made prisoners, and all their property taken from them; many say, added he, that it had been long in the possession of the king of Naples. Greatly did he praise it before he showed it, and said, the least he valued it for was its beauty, but that it was its extraordinary properties that he esteemed, adding, he would not suffer any one else to see it but herself. He then brought it forth, still persisting he would not part with it on any account whatsoever.

The countess, holding the jewel in her hand, was admiring it, and the more she minutely examined it, the more beautiful it appeared to her; such was the desire of possessing it, that she would have given any thing to obtain it; yet, concealing this desire as well as she could, she begged Navarro to inform her of its virtues and properties. After many times refusing so to do, as if he had some great objection to do so, "Madam," said he, "whenever any one is in doubt how to determine upon any thing of great moment, if they look in it; and the determination they wish to abide by is likely to be of advantage, they see this stone as clear and bright as if all the solar rays were centred within it; if the reverse, it becomes as dark as night. Some say, indeed, that it is the philosophers' stone, so long sought after in vain, while others think it is not the produce of nature, but of hermetical philosophy. There are others maintain, that it was that which Alexander the Great possessed, who never went into battle without first consulting it; and, lastly, that it was Caesar's, and was the means of rendering both invulnerable, as you have often heard related." Having thus replied to the lady, he took the jewel back, and went his way. Being left with her woman, she exclaimed, "Oh! who could be so happy as I, if I could but possess such a beautiful and wonderful thing! look at it, and consult it when I pleased; should I ever be asked again in marriage, as I was awhile ago by the count of Barcelona, what a blessing it would be to me to have the advice of my infallible monitor," she then intreated her maid again, for her sake, to go and beseech Navarro to let her purchase it at any price he should fix. Though the maid had not the least hope of success, yet she went twice without succeeding, for he even denied ever showing it again. At last, the third day, it appearing to him a proper time to execute the plan he at first had premeditated, Navarro said, "Madam, since your importunity, the beauty, and superior charms of your lady, have so won me over to part with such a wonderful jewel, go and say that I certainly will give it to her, provided, in return, she will admit me, for one night only, in her room, as she would a husband. Should she refuse, tell her that neither entreaties, money, or any other reward, shall ever dispossess me of it, and request her to cease to wish for it any longer, or molest me further."

The maid related the whole conversation to the countess, adding, that if she could not bring herself to agree to it, she would have no more to do in the business, as she was fully convinced, nothing less than such a sacrifice would do. The lady was seriously angry, considering herself greatly insulted in her honor, and in threatening words reprobated the presumption of the fellow, who dared to contaminate her greatness by such a proposal; with her maid she also found fault, because she had not rebuked him for presuming to make such a proposal. The maid, rather smilingly, said, "Madam when I first went by your order, I thought my duty was to report to both what each other should say; nor should I ever have thought it my province to alter or conceal any thing said; therefore, if you are any way displeased, it is your fault, for you should have ordered me, had he said any thing rude, not to tell you of it, and to have reprimanded him; though had you mentioned such a thing, I declare I should not have meddled in it at all; for I not only cannot punish, but cannot even blame things when they are not unjust. The gods receive alike the prayers of the just as well as of the wicked; true it is, they grant it to the just when they think fit, nor did I suppose you would assume more to yourself. In the name of peace, what has Navarro done to you? in what has he offended you? are you not aware that asking is neither robbing nor giving? You are too young, and do not well distinguish good from evil, but were those locks of yours as grey as mine, you would talk in a very different style. Such speeches may be uttered, 'tis true, but to whom and where?—not here! nor to me! nor to any of your maids, but to strangers, who, although they will not give credit to them, will consider you as very virtuous, and a woman who is acquainted with female arts, that is, in one word, to dissemble. But with me, who am wholly yours, and have no dearer being than you, you must not talk so; but allowing for your great youth, and bearing with your reproofs, I will proceed and tell you that if you wisely agree to Navarro's request, you will have the gem, and I really think you will have the best bargain. This pedler, although but a small trader, has in his countenance, manners, and thoughts, something more of the gentleman than the mechanic. Now if you do not take him, you will have done what you choose, but not what you ought."

With such arguments and discourse did the old lady's-maid spur on and seduce her mistress; so that wearied at last with her reasoning and importunities, though she thought it a monstrous difficult thing to manage, she after many nays and yesses, ifs and buts, said to her, "do what you list, but settle it so that it be only for one night, and late enough, that it may not occasion any mischief to me, and danger to thee; for really when once you begin upon a thing, there is no way of getting rid of you, and one's obliged to give way." The lady made no answer, but went to Navarro, and arranged so, that the following evening, after midnight, he should come to the garden-gate behind the house, and she would direct the rest, and not to forget the jewel; all of which was duly performed, and at night when he had given the gem, he said, he had more of equal value which he saved for her, and would dispose of at the same price; the which being heard by her woman, she so teazed her mistress, pointing out to her that repetitions would not make things worse, that she earned a beautiful ruby and an emerald, the one of which Navarro said possessed the virtue of counter poison, the other an antidote to the plague, the which often occurs in Languedoc. But as it often happens that we get that which we do not look for, a few weeks after the countess actually found that she was not likely to escape with impunity, upon which she entered into counsel with her adviser, who afforded her all the consolation she could, and told her that she must keep her own secret, and all things should be provided against, and all go well; that she was not the first by far, and would certainly not be the last, to whom such things had happened, who afterwards, for a true maiden, was taken as a wife.

The flush of shame rising upon the countess's cheek, she cried, "let others do what they may; heaven forbid, that since I could not guard against the first transgression, I should gloss it over by a second; I never will be the wretch to deceive one that shall think me honourable. The sin shall fall on the sinner, and that fruit shall be his that sowed it. Too long have I followed thy silly counsels, therefore, without any farther consultations, if thou wishest not to offend me, go and bring Navarro to me, for since I have so degraded myself as to become his, though late, I will be noble enough never, by deceit, to become another's, and am fully determined to submit to that fate which thy ill advice, and thy want of discretion and prudence, have led me to." The waiting-maid perceiving the countess's resolution was fixed, though she endeavoured to soothe and persuade her, brought Navarro, who, perhaps, having seen the countess much altered, had well guessed the cause. The countess, almost overcome with grief, yet, without shedding a tear, with the greatest firmness, not like a silly girl, said to him, "my friend, since thy good fortune and my ill one, thy great prudence and my want of it, has led me, nobly born as I am, rather than deceive God and man, to become the wife of a pedler, and thou, whoever thou art, to become the husband of a count's daughter; I pray thee not to turn thy back on me, but to prepare thyself to become mine. I am pregnant, and do not mean to remain here, a burden and nuisance to others, and an eternal cause of shame and sorrow to myself; I am therefore resolved upon going with thee, living poorly, and labouring for my bread, rather to injure this guilty body, than to live in ease and plenty, to the detriment of my soul; therefore prepare all things so, that by to-morrow night we may go from hence, and having by me thy gems, many of my own, and a little money, we will go as well as we can, sheltered from hunger, until I can see to what better fate the destinies have decreed me." The count of Barcelona, whom henceforward we shall no longer call Navarro, though much pleased, for it was this which he wished above all things, considered within himself, had he been what she really thought him, what would have been her fate; to what fortune leads us; how often it happens, and how easy it is to deceive women, though they think themselves so wise, and particularly girls. He felt so much pity for her that he was ready to do that, which she, though a woman, had too much pride to do, that is actually to weep and, in great agitation, he said to her, "Madam, I am a poor pedler, as you have clearly seen, and as such I have made up my mind to live and die a bachelor, therefore I intreat you not to molest me with such thoughts, nor bring upon yourself this disgrace." He would have proceeded, but compassion for her, the desire of possessing her, and the fear she should repent what she had proposed, actually choked his utterance. "My friend," said she, "I will only say that the most fortunate man in the world has scarcely evermore than one such a lucky opportunity, as thy good fortune offers thee to my great disadvantage; beware of her frowning upon thee for thy folly, should thou, a poor pedler, refuse to marry her who but very lately refused the count of Barcelona." These last words so fired the soul of the count, and so excited him to vengeance, that he no longer refused, and said that since she wished it, he would be ready to obey, and that she must prepare herself to lead a life suitable to one who was his wife, and not as her father's daughter; walking on foot without any other companion; inasmuch as not only his profession demanded, but also because it was necessary to avoid the danger to which the carrying away the daughter of a count would expose him. It was agreed, without saying a word to any one except the countess's maid, that they would sally forth, each under a pilgrim's dress, to St. James of Gallicia the next night. The bustle and wonder at Toulouse and the adjacent parts were very great when this accident was discovered; but no one being willing to credit it, it was thought that through devotion she had retired into some religious house; for since she had perceived her situation, she had been much more attentive to her religious duties than usual, avoiding, as far as she could, all company; the which circumstance gave additional credit to the belief: and the maid, who had remained, had so well managed her story, intimating her displeasure at being so deceived, that every one thought that was actually the fact; therefore in consequence of this belief, the couple being soon out of the territory of Languedoc, they were not found out, although closely pursued. It would be tedious to relate the many trials and sufferings of the poor unhappy lady on their march; she who had for years scarcely moved a step without her carriage, and being assisted by several cavaliers of her father's court, was now, in the parching month of July, obliged to walk on flinty stones, besides being pretty large, and enduring every possible suffering on the road which a poor person must bear. The count now and then would make her rest, but in such a harsh tone, and then so uncourteously made her resume her journey, that it went to her very soul; but on the day they left Toulouse she made up her mind patiently to bear every insult of fortune. Proceeding thus on her journey, they reached the inn where she hoped to rest from the fatigues of the day; but whether from the bad accommodations in that country, or that the count chose to have it so, she could not close her eyes, and it became rather an encrease of sufferings, than an alleviation either to body or mind. After several days, being arrived at Barcelona, there he found his friends, whom he had sent off with speed, the very day he left Toulouse, to provide the poorest lodging they could find for him and his lady, but, however, at a good and religious woman's, though there are but few of those. Having slept with her the first night, and stayed with her the whole day, in the evening he made her believe that some business would detain him out the next day, and that he could not possibly be with her till night, desiring her to attend with the old woman to her work, so that she might provide for her scanty living, for he did not mean to sell any of his jewels, nor waste his money; on the contrary, as he spared from his trade by industry, she must do the same, if she wished for peace and quietness; the unhappy countess sighed from her inmost soul, recollecting how many poor people her father supported, while she was in such a distressed situation, as to be obliged to work for her daily support; but with a sweet smile, she answered she should do as he desired. The count, in a pilgrim's dress, left her and went to his home, where, as one that had been lost, without hopes of being seen again, he was most tenderly received by his father and mother, for he had considerably lengthened the proposed time of his absence. Thus then did the count jovially spend the days with his friends and courtiers, never omitting, however, returning in his pilgrim's dress to his lady at night, and commanding her new duties, and ordering her to be always ready to help the hostess in the kitchen and household work, Not being as yet satisfied, he determined to heap upon her new injuries; he therefore said to her one evening, "to-morrow I mean to treat a friend of mine, a skinner, at a tailor's, where I must, of course, purchase the bread, and as bread is very dear in this part of the world, and I don't like to be at the expense, I have thought that tomorrow morning, after you have helped the hostess in baking, you must pretend to have dropped something, and hide four rolls in your pocket under your petticoat, and keep them for me, and two or three hours after dinner I'll come and fetch them." This appeared a most vile and degrading thing to the noble-minded countess, and had it not been that she had heard much of the idle and lazy habits of the Spaniards and Navarrese, she would have believed he was in jest, yet thinking, after all, it was spoken in good earnest, she intreated him for heaven's sake, not to compel her to such an act; to which he churlishly answered, "what! have you not yet forgotten you are the daughter of the count of Toulouse, eh! yet the first day we left the place I told thee, and thou didst promise, that forgetting the past thou wouldst only remember that thou wert the poor wife of Navarro; now I tell thee again, that if thou wishest to be happy, thou must make up thy mind to do this, and any thing else I shall command thee, otherwise I will leave thee here alone, and shall go elsewhere to seek my fortune." Thus was she compelled to obey; and, in the morning, as she had been desired, so she did. The count every evening used to ride about at his pleasure, and, on that day, calling on one of the two friends who were at Toulouse with him, and who was somewhat related to him, he told him what he was to do. The count passed by the poor dwelling of his lady, and there stopped awhile at a distance, while his companion, who had directions how to act, drew near the old woman, who happened to be at the door, at work with the countess; "Mistress," said he, "who is this young woman sitting by you?" When the old woman had told him who she was, and when she had arrived there; "Oh," said the gentleman, "you seem to be old in the world, but with very little knowledge of it; this female appears to me to be one of the wickedest women I ever saw, and, if you do not mind, she will strip you of every thing you have in the world;" the which the old woman denied, and bestowed great praise upon her. "Nay," said the gentleman, "I will convince you with your own eyes before I go; now, only raise her upper petticoat a little, and look in her pocket and see what she has there, and that will prove to you that I have not been studying necromancy at Toledo seven years for nothing;" and as he seemed approaching, to convince her himself, she, out of regard to the countess, rather than suspicion, searched her pocket, where she found the four rolls, at which she was much amazed, and endeavoured to apologize for her to the gentleman. After a little chat, and laughing on the subject, he departed: the reader may well imagine how confounded and ashamed the countess was. She almost swooned in seeing herself so detected and degraded. Having afterwards been gently reproved by the old woman, she, weeping, asked her pardon, and promised never to be guilty of the like sin again, but carefully concealing who it was that had made her do so. At night the count said he had not had any occasion for them, and pretended to be much displeased at the shame she had brought upon herself, saying, that it was in consequence of her ill-will to do it, and her awkwardness.

The countess of Catalonia, his mother, at that time was preparing some curious works which she was engaged to consecrate by a vow to a saint at Barcelona, to be added as ornaments to the various figures, animals, &c. represented on it; now, it occurred to the count that this would be an excellent opportunity of mortifying still more the poor countess; he therefore told his mother that he knew a French woman that understood these things remarkably well, and would send her on the following day; and, in the evening, he told the countess to prepare, and commanded her to steal as many of the pearls as she possibly could. She burst into a flood of tears on hearing this, for the adventure of the rolls was too fresh in her memory, and considering that she was going to the house of him whom she, but scarcely nine months since, had scorned and refused, and where she might easily be discovered, weeping bitterly, she begged him not to insist; but upon his threatening vengeance against her should she not obey, she was compelled to consent; and the better to conceal the theft, it was agreed she should put the pearls in her mouth, under her tongue, for however few she might take, these being so very valuable, it would still be a great gain. In the morning she was introduced and set to work by the count's mother; her manners and behaviour were so genteel, that such as beheld her agreed that she must have been of noble birth, and well brought up, from her readiness and grace in every thing that belongs to a female; she, little caring for their praises, these being rather as so many daggers to her heart, attended to the concerted plan, and had already got three of the finest pearls under her tongue, when she beheld the very gentleman that had occasioned the bread scene to take place, for he had been sent by the count. The said gentleman began to converse with the old countess, then looking at the poor creature now at work, said he was much astonished that such a vile woman should be admitted in her house; relating to her the story of the rolls, and presently proceeded to tell the old countess what she had robbed her of, which the poor creature, to her great confusion, was compelled to bear; but the lady, excusing her on account of her poverty, paid her for the work she had done, and dismissed her.

The angry count at last thinking he had sufficiently avenged the insult he had suffered from his wife, and punished the rash opinion she had formed of him; she now feeling that she had been guilty of much more meanness than the picking up a seed of pomegranate, and knowing she was near her time, determined no longer to torment her, and having related the whole story to his father and mother and that she had been persuaded to become his prey, not from avarice, but by artful means; likewise, considering how much pain and grief he had heaped upon her in punishment for her offence, he said, that the next day, he intended, it being agreeable to them, to bring her home as the daughter of the count of Toulouse, and his wife. The old folks were as much delighted at hearing this, as they had been grieved when they heard the match had been broken off, and without giving any reason for it, a grand and elegant fete was ordered to be prepared in the evening. The count of Barcelona said to his wife, "to-morrow there will be a grand fete at the house of the count of this country, on account of his marrying the eldest daughter of the king of Arragon, one of the handsomest and most beautiful women in the world; indeed, he may thank heaven that thou didst spurn him from thee, for he has much improved his riches and dignity by this alliance." The poor creature at this could not repress a deep sigh, considering what she formerly had been, and what she now was. The count proceeded: "to-morrow will be a holiday, there is no work done, therefore I have been thinking that thou and the good old woman should come and spend your time there, for here alone thou wouldst be moped, and meanwhile thou wilt be able to see if any thing can be got at there without being detected; as thou art a woman, though thou hast been seen there, no harm will come of it, but a little shame, that will soon be overcome, and which a poor creature as thou art must make up thy mind to." Although the countess had suffered so much from the other vexatious scenes she had gone through, she now thought this the most cruel of all, and, in the greatest agony, said, she could be prepared to meet death, rather than do such a thing: but the count, who was fully determined on this last trial, swore, threatened, and abused her so, that she was at last forced to submit, and promised she would not fail to be there. He having apprised the hostess of his design, told her at what hour, and where she was to go the next morning; this done, he returned home. On the following day, all the first nobles and ladies of Barcelona having assembled at the old count's to honour the festival, before the tables were prepared, various amusements took place. The old hostess, as previously agreed with the count, brought, most reluctantly, and, as it were, by force, the young countess a full hour before dinner. The poor creature had scarcely entered the great room, retiring as much as possible amidst the least conspicuous among them, than the count, sumptuously dressed, joyful and happy, going graciously up to her, said aloud, so that he might be distinctly heard by all, "welcome, the lady countess, my bride! It is now high time that your pedler, Navarro, should be transformed into the count of Barcelona, and that you, a poor pedler's wife, should become the daughter and wife of a count!" At these words, struck dumb with wonder, shame, fear, and hope, the countess looked around to see whether these words were addressed to any person besides her; yet, in a moment recognising his voice and manners, uncertain what she should do, the words died on her lips: upon which the count added, "my lady, if the having been refused by you, had enraged me so as to make me more cruel towards you than you might consider justifiable, yet, I think, had you been in like circumstances, as much in love as I, and undeserving to be so indignantly treated, I should obtain not only your pardon, but that you would plead my excuse: therefore, as I have found more true nobleness of mind in you, in this low state you have been reduced to, than I at first was able to discover in your higher situation, I do entreat you to forget, as I do, the first offence, my former treatment, and cast into eternal oblivion every revengeful deed of mine, and be pleased, in the presence of my father, mother, and this noble company, to give me in Barcelona that which you refused me in Toulouse, and which I stole from you by the dint of art." The countess recovering from her astonishment, replied, with a noble countenance, manner, and good sense, and like a princess: "happy am I, my true lord, to know on this day how far greater my good fortune has been than my judgment: since I find you what you really are, not what I at first looked upon you to be; most willingly do I forget the merited wrongs I have suffered, and ready am I to bestow publicly, before this noble and honourable assembly, that which before was granted in Toulouse before less honourable witnesses. I am, therefore, ready to be yours, if it so pleases you, and if it be approved by your father and the lady your mother, whose generous pardon I crave for former offences, and will ever honour and hold dear as a loving daughter." She would have proceeded, had not the tears of the old count, countess, and bystanders, interrupted her. Her tattered garments were then thrown aside; she was elegantly dressed; the fete became a complete scene of happiness; the count of Toulouse was apprised of every thing, and the alliance joyfully confirmed, the ample portion given, and the former friendship newly cemented, and, a very few days after, the countess was delivered of a beautiful son, and several other children in the course of time; she lived most happily with her husband, and became almost adored throughout the country.

This story is distinctly and circumstantially recorded in both countries, and I leave it to the hearers to determine which was most to be admired—the virtue of Toulouse, or the courtesy of Catalonia.