Once a Week (magazine)/Series 1/Volume 5/The origin of the Lake of Gidden

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search


In the island of Rugen, in the Baltic, may be seen the Lake Gidden, the origin of which, according to a popular tradition, was as follows.

There once lived in the island two women, one of whom was charitable and compassionate, and the other hard-hearted and avaricious. One evening, in the midst of a tempest of wind and rain, a poor old man, dressed as a beggar, presented himself at the cottage of the ill-disposed woman, and begged for a bit of bread and a night’s lodging. This woman was rich, but for all that she refused to relieve him, and roughly drove him away. The old man next went to the other woman who was poor. She received him with kindness, and shared with him her last morsel of bread. He passed the night under her roof, and in the morning, on thanking her for her goodness, he said:

“In return for your hospitality, you will, for a whole day, have in abundance whatever you may first take in hand.”

The woman smiled, taking the speech for a good-natured jest, expressive of the wayfarer’s gratitude. After accompanying the old man for a short distance, the woman, on her return home, went to a cupboard for some linen, to make into a shirt for her child. She was aware that of the linen there were but three yards, but when she measured it, she found there were more. She measured off another three yards, but still there was a remnant. She then set to work, and continued to measure off, more and more, while the linen continued to lengthen in proportion. Astonished at the circumstance, she persisted in measuring, till she filled the whole of her cabin, and then her yard, and then she went forth into the fields, holding in her hands the end of the cloth, which still continued to lengthen, spreading itself upon the ground, like so many pathways upon the grass behind her.

At once delighted and surprised, she thus prolonged her work till nightfall. She had become rich. The event soon became known to the neighbours, and among others, to the ill-disposed woman. To the latter it was grievous to have missed such an opportunity for gratifying her covetousness. She now regretted having refused the old man a night’s lodging, and with a view to rectify her mistake, and also to gain, possibly, still more than the good woman had done, she sought out the old man, and invited him to her dwelling. He came. Hiding her selfishness under a false appearance of benevolence, she prepared him a soft bed, and regaled him to the best of her power. On the following day the old man thanked her, and going out, said,

“For this day thou wilt have in abundance of whatever thou wilt first take in hand.”

Hardly had the old man gone, when the woman, actuated with but one desire, hurried to her money, of which she determined to count out an immense quantity. Fearing, however, lest she might be robbed, she betook herself to a very solitary spot, where she might be unseen of any one. Before beginning to count her money, she wished to wash some coins that had got dirty, and for this purpose, on pouring some water over them, she found that the water would not cease flowing. It flowed and flowed, till herself, and her house, and her fields were completely drowned; and it is on that spot where now lies the Lake Gidden.