LIKE many others in the world, there was a man and his wife. The man's name was Petarillo. He was fond of sporting. One day he caught two leverets, and the parish
priest came to see him. The husband said to his wife--"If the priest comes again you will let one of the hares go, as if to meet me, tying, at the same time, a letter round its neck, and I will tie another letter to the other hare."
The priest goes to the house one day, and asks where the husband is. The woman says:
"I will send one of the hares with a letter to fetch him. No matter where he is, she will find him; he has trained them so well."
And she lets one of the hares loose. They grew impatient at the long delay, and had given it up, when at last the husband came. His wife says to him, "I sent the hare."
He answers, "I have it here."
The astonished priest says to him, "You must sell me that hare, I beg you; you have trained it so well."
A second time he says, "You must sell it to me."
And the man said to him, "I will not give it you for less than five hundred francs."
Oh! you will give it me for three hundred?"
At last he gives it him for four hundred. The priest tells his housekeeper:
"If any one comes, you will let the hare loose; she will find me, no matter where I may be."
A man comes to the parsonage to say that a sick person is asking for the priest. She immediately lets the hare loose, being quite sure that that would be enough. But the priest did not return. The man got tired of waiting, and went off. The housekeeper told the priest that she had let the hare loose, and that she had seen nothing more of it.
In a rage, he goes to the huntsman's house. But Petarillo, seeing him coming in a rage, gives a wine-skin to his wife, and says to her:
"Put this under your jacket. When the priest is here, I will plunge a knife into you in a rage, and you will fall as if you were dead; and when I shall begin to play the flute, you will get up as if you were alive."
The priest arrives in a great rage, (they all three dispute), and the man stabs his wife. She falls on the ground, and the priest says to him:
"Do you know what you have done?
He replies, "It is nothing; I will soon put it to rights."
And he takes his flute, and begins to play. She gets up all alive again, and the priest says to him:
"Do sell me that flute, I beg you."
He answers that it is of great value, and that he will not sell it.
"But you must sell it me. How much do you want for it? I will give you all you ask."
"Five hundred francs." And he gives it him.
The priest's housekeeper used sometimes to laugh at him. So when he came home he wanted to frighten her a little; and, as usual, she begins to make fun of him; and he stabs her with the large carving-knife. His sister says to him,
"Do you know what you have done? You have killed your housekeeper!"
"No, no! I can put that to rights."
He begins to play on the flute, but it does no good at all. He rushes off in a rage to the huntsman's house, and he ties the huntsman in a sack, and hauls him off to throw him into the sea. As he passes near the church, the bell begins to ring for Mass, and he leaves the man there till he has said Mass. Meanwhile a shepherd passes. He asks him what he is doing there. He says to him, "The priest is going to throw me into the sea because I will not marry the king's daughter."
The other said to him, "I will put myself in your place,
and I will deliver you. When you have tied me up, go away with my flock."
When the priest returned, after having said Mass, he takes up the sack, and the man says,
"I will marry the king's daughter."
"I will marry you presently."
And he throws him into the sea.
The good priest was returning home, when he sees the man with the sheep, and says to him,
"Where did you get that flock from?"
"From the bottom of the sea. There are plenty there. Don't you see that white head, how it lifts itself above the sea?"
"Yes; and I, too, must have a flock like that."
"Come close to the edge, then."
And our huntsman pushes him into the sea.
We have other tales about priests, all in the same spirit as this. The Basques are a deeply religious people, and are generally on the best terms with the clergy; but they will not be dominated by them. Any attempt at undue interference in their national games or customs is sure to be resented; of this we have known several instances--some rather amusing ones. G. H., the narrator of the above tale, did not know a word of French.
Some of Campbell's stories begin a little like these, e.g., Vol. I., p. 95, Macdonald's tale--"There was a king and a knight, as there was and will be, and as grows the fir tree, some of it crooked and some of it straight, and he was King of Eirinn." The ending, "If they had lived well, they would have died well too," recals a Latin inscription still occasionally to be seen on Basque houses:--
Memento tua novissima,
Et non peccabis in æternum."
[paragraph continues] This is on two houses in Baigorry, and on one at Ascarrat, and probably on many others.
154:1 We had put this tale aside, with some others, as worthless, until we found from Campbell how widely it is spread. The earliest version seems to be the Italian of Straparola, 1567. The first incident there, persuading that a pig is an ass, we have in another Basque tale; the last two incidents are identical. They are found, too, in the Gaelic, p. 155 though in separate versions. For killing the wife, see Campbell, Vol. II., p. 232; for the last, pp. 222 and 234. Cf. also "The Three Widows," with all the variations and notes, Vol. II., pp. 218-238. Is this a case of transmission from one people to another of the Italian of Straparola? or do all the versions point back to some lost original? and is there, or can there be, any allegorical meaning to such a tale? The answer to these questions seems of great importance, and the present tale to be a good instance to work upon. Petarillo seems an Italian name.