AGAIN OF THE SAME APPARITIONS

There was a knight who had a beloved wife. Shortly into their marriage they were blest by God and had a first born son. After the birth the household went to bed that night rejoicing in their good fortune but, in the morning, when the mother looked into the cradle, she let out a terrible scream. There lay the baby with its throat cut.

A year went by and a second son was born but he too was found dead in his cradle the morning after his birth.

When the woman became pregnant again it was gloom rather than joy that filled the castle. As her time grew near the knight was determined that the tragedies should not be repeated. After the child was born a careful watch was put on him, with the whole household staying up to keep vigil through the child’s first night but, despite this, the same terrible sight met their gaze come the morning.

He anticipated the birth of the fourth child with fasting, alms and prayers and many tears. In due course a boy was born to them and the neighbours and the household, surrounded by fires and torchlight, all kept their eyes fixed on him as he slept, unaware and innocent, in the cradle.

As dusk was settling there was a knock at the door and a pilgrim was admitted, tired it seemed with journeying. Since he sought shelter in God’s name, the knight could not send him away, although everyone felt unsettled to have a stranger in their midst at such a terrible time. When events were explained to him he readily agreed to share their watch.

After midnight, when all the rest had fallen into a deep sleep, he remained awake and saw the figure of a lady stooping over the cradle. He sprang forward without hesitation and seized hold of her and held her tight while the noise of their tussle rose the others.

She was immediately recognized as a noble lady who lived in the nearby city, highly regarded because of her birth, character, wealth and honest behaviour but, to the knight’s questioning of why she was here, she remained silent and would not answer any question posed to her. The father attributed this to shame at being caught. Out of pity for her previous good character he asked the pilgrim to let go of her but this man refused, insisting that she was the devil. He asked someone to fetch the key of the neighbouring church and, when it was brought, placed it on the woman’s cheek, where it left a mark like a brand. He then directed that men be sent to the woman’s home and bring her here, which order was greeted with amazement and concern that the pilgrim might have been driven mad.

Nevertheless the knight agreed to send some of his men to the woman’s house. All the while they were away the pilgrim remained holding tight to her and never taking his eyes off her. Sometime later the party returned and great was the amazement when they came in with the woman, quite like to the other, right down to the branding on the cheek.

“The lady who has just come is an excellent person and dear to God.” said the pilgrim. “By her good works she has drawn on herself the anger of the devils and therefore this evil emissary has been made like this good woman in order to throw great infamy on her. Note what she will do when I let her go.”

With this he released his grip and the creature flew out through the window, giving out such shrieks and lamentations that turned everyone’s blood to ice. The lord, his family and the woman were never troubled by demons again. Despite their protestations that their saviour must stay with them and be rewarded, he insisted on setting off on his pilgrimage immediately and that was the last they saw of him, in this world at least.

 

 

 

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