Tales of Old Lusitania/The Enchanted Old Woman
THE ENCHANTED OLD WOMAN.
There once lived together two very plain old women, who were both very desirous of finding husbands, but as they were frightfully ugly they never allowed any one to see them. One day, however, they decided to let the public know their wish to marry, and they put up a notice to that effect by posting an announcement outside the door. Many men passed and read the notice, and if by chance any of them called to see them and judge whether either of them were desirable as wives, these ladies would always send a message by the servant that they could not allow themselves to be seen till the wedding-day on their way to church, which, of course, put an end to the matter. At last there came a man who, having his curiosity aroused, and wishing very much to know them, determined to run the risk and abide by the consequences. He proposed marriage to one of them, who at once consented in great delight. The fortunate maid did all in her power to appear to advantage on her wedding-day, and really succeeded in making herself look very pretty.
After the wedding ceremony, the man brought her to his home, and as he gazed on her charms thought himself a lucky man. At night, when she began to undress, the astonished husband found all her beauty disappearing, for her eyes, nose, hair, and the rest were false, and when taken off left her an exceedingly ugly old woman. After a while, growing tired of always having before him so unprepossessing a figure, he one day gave the old hag a push and threw her out of the window. Fortunately for her, under the window there was the low roof of a shed, and as she fell her dress was caught by one of the tiles, and there she remained all night, unable to extricate herself.
Early in the morning two witches passed by, and seeing the old woman hanging from the roof, one of them said to her: "Unfortunate creature! I suppose you are there because you are ugly? Well, never mind; I shall make your face the most beautiful that ever was seen."
That very moment the fright became a maid of surpassing loveliness.When the husband got up in the morning, he said to himself: "I shall look out and see what has become of the old hag. Perhaps she is still lying in the road." He came to the window, and looking down on the low roof great was his surprise to find, instead of the ugly old woman he had thrown out of window the night before, a most beautiful maiden hanging from the low roof.
Bewildered and delighted at the discovery, he ran to bring her in, whilst he made many apologies for what he had done, saying that he must have been blind when he threw her out. The wife heard all his excuses without saying a word, nor did she upbraid him for his inhuman conduct, fearing from past experience what might again happen to her at his hands. Her sister, seeing her looking so much altered for the better, asked her what she had done to become so beautiful. But her husband being present, she was afraid to tell her what had occurred, but said in a whisper: "A witch enchanted me; but don't say a word."
The sister, who was deaf and could hardly hear what was said to her, repeated the question: "Tell me quick, what have you done to become so charming?"
"A witch has enchanted me," said she, still in a whisper.
The deaf old woman understood her sister to say that she had had her skin peeled off, so she sent for the barber and asked him to do the same to her. One arm had hardly been skinned when the foolish old woman died from the effects, and the barber, much alarmed, sent for her sister, and told her what had occurred. The enchanted maid was shocked and much grieved at the mistake her poor sister had made and its dire consequences, but as there was now no remedy and she could not bring her sister back to life, she begged the barber to keep the secret, for fear of her husband's wrath; but the secret she was most anxious to keep from her husband was the fact that she had been enchanted.