Tales of Old Lusitania/The Echo

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THE ECHO.




Once upon a time there lived a man whose wife was so fond of drink that, do what he would, he could never keep his wine cellar full. One day, as he was leaving home to buy some oxen, he earnestly entreated his wife not to go into the cellar and drink the remaining bottles of wine, because they were of a fine vintage, and he was keeping them for an especial occasion; but the moment he had left the house she went and invited a neighbour to join her in drinking up her husband's choicest wine.

As may be supposed, when the man returned home and found that all his wine was gone, he was very angry with his wife; he took up a thick stick to beat her with, but as he was preparing to carry out his purpose the wife cleverly turned him away from it, saying, "My dear husband, why should you wish to beat me when I am quite innocent of the crime of consuming your wine. It was not I that did it, but our old cat, who has lately shown a great liking for intoxicating drinks." As the man would not believe that story, she repeated her assertion, saying, "Now to prove to you that what I say is the truth, I invite you to go with me to the shrine of Our Lady of Grace, and there before her miraculous statue, ask her who it was that drank your wine, I or the cat. If Our Lady says that I am the guilty party, I promise solemnly that as a punishment for my fault I will bring you home on my back, but if Our Lady says, what is really the fact, that our naughty cat was the thief, why then you must carry me home instead." The good honest man agreed to his wife's proposal, and they both started for the Chapel of the Virgin, which was some distance off. But when they came to a certain spot which was surrounded by hills and famous for its wonderful echoes, the cunning woman stopped short and said to her husband, "It is needless to go any farther, for Our Lady of Grace can hear us here as well as at her shrine. Ask her yourself to enlighten you, and I am sure she will readily grant you the favour you seek."

The man, who was honest and simple-minded, did not suspect his wife of deceit, whatever other faults she might have, and he therefore, raising his voice, cried aloud to Our Lady, "Oh, sweet Lady of Grace, tell me who it was that drank my best wine—was it my wife or the cat?"

He paused for the answer, and the mountains taking up the last words of the sentence, echoed back the words, "The cat." The man repeated the question three times, and thrice did the echo answer back, "The cat."

The man, perfectly convinced that his wife was innocent, tenderly took her up and carried her home on his back, much to the amusement and relief of the woman.

When the man returned home he killed their old cat so that his wine might be safe from her thievish tastes.

Coimbra.


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