Tales of Old Lusitania/The Man Who Seeks Adventures
THE MAN WHO SEEKS ADVENTURES.
Once a rich man had a son, who was born with such a courageous spirit that even in his infancy no circumstance, however fearful, could startle or terrify him.
An augur, who was consulted at his birth, predicted from the signs in the heavens and the planetary influences present at the time, "That the child would grow up into a man of undaunted courage, whom nothing could terrify; that the child was under a spell, by which he would feel compelled to wander through many lands, seeking for adventures. But that the charm he laboured under would be dispelled the instant he met with anything that should succeed in frightening him."
While yet a mere boy, urged by his restless spirit and taste for romantic adventures, he went to his father, and said: "Father, give me my portion, for I wish to travel and seek new scenes and adventures."
Whereupon his father gave him his patrimony, and assigned him a servant and a horse for the journey.
The boy set out on his roaming expedition, and by sea and by land he courted occasions where he could display his courage. But after passing through many towns and villages, meeting with surprising incidents, and everywhere giving proofs of his fearlessness, our valiant hero arrived at a place where a new trial of his nerve awaited him. On arriving at this place he made inquiries where he could find quarters for himself, servant, and horse, and was informed that every room in the town was occupied, but that there was an empty house in the neighbourhood belonging to a rich family, who had left it because it was haunted by a demon, and no one had dared to live in it since. On hearing this, our hero sought the owner of the house, who happened to be a lady, and at once obtained leave to occupy the premises so long as he should remain in the place; this permission she gladly granted, as she had been unable to find any one to live in it, even for a single day. He at once took possession of the house, and that same night slept in it with his servant; by which he showed that he had sufficient courage to encounter even an enemy from the other world, and venture to inhabit a spot which was deemed accursed.
In the dead of night, when the town was perfectly still, and our valiant hero was fast asleep, he was suddenly awakened by a noise, and soon after heard a voice which repeated several times: "I shall fall through the ceiling. What say you?"
"I have not the least objection; fall near me, if it pleases you," was the quick reply of the youth.
"How will you have me, whole, or shall I come down in pieces?"
"You can fall in fragments, if you like; you cannot frighten me any way."
That instant one leg fell into the room, then another, and so on. Arms, head, and all the component parts of a man's body lay in a heap on the floor, whilst our hero remained perfectly cool and collected, nor did the sickening sight excite in him fear or disgust; but in a firm and commanding tone he said: "I order you, in the name of God, to come together again, and stand before me a whole man; and inform me what it is you want, that you thus haunt this place and scare people?"
Gradually all the parts began to unite into a perfect, but cadaverous-looking man, with toothless jaws, which he worked up and down in a horrible manner; then he said, with a ghastly grin, and in a solemn voice: "I am the late owner of this house. During my lifetime I took possession of another man's property—a farm—to which I had no right whatever; in fact, I was no better than a thief. If my wife does not make restitution and return the property to the right owner I shall go—to hell, from which I am not very far now, and so will my wife and family. But if she makes restitution we shall be saved, and all go to heaven."
The boy replied: "If that is the case, I shall go at once and inform your wife of the fact, and I feel sure when she knows that by restoring the property she can save you, she will gladly do what lies in her power to give rest to your soul."
"There is one thing more," said the ghost, "which I wish you to tell my wife; inform her that in the wine cellar she will find a glass jar full of money, hidden under the large vat. But first go and seek an olive branch, and bring it to me that I may place it over the place where the money is buried."
The youth went, as desired, in search of an olive branch, and, when he returned with one, the ghost took it and placed it over the hidden treasure, and then suddenly disappeared.
Next morning our hero called upon the dead man's widow, and explained to her the purport of his visit. The good lady was visibly affected at what she heard, and expressed her intention to do as her late husband desired, and return the farm to the poor but rightful owners; and she thanked the courageous youth for his good act towards her and her husband and family. They both then proceeded to the cellar, and found the coins in the glass jar, buried under the large vat, as the ghost had indicated. And wherever that objectionable person had left his footprints the ground was seen to be scorched!
Our hero now determined to continue his wanderings, and went to take leave of the good lady; but she entreated him not to depart until after the transfer of the farm, and thus help her to complete his good work towards her and family.
"What can I offer you," said she to the youth, on the completion of the whole affair, "for all your kindness to me and my family? I have nothing that I can give but my daughter in marriage, if you will have her."
"I thank you much for your offer, and for the honour you do me, but it is my destiny to wander through the wide world without aim or purpose; besides which I wish to return to my home and native place a bachelor."
The daughter then said: "Mother, since we have nothing else to offer the good gentleman, let us give him a pair of doves shut up in a basket."
The youth accepted the modest gift, and took his departure; and after he had pursued his journey some miles, his servant said to him: "Master, why do you not open the basket and see what there is in it? Whatever there is inside does nothing but flutter, as if trying to get out."
Our hero took the basket, and, untying the string that fastened down the lid, uncovered it, and out flew the imprisoned doves, glad to recover their freedom; but as they did so they clapped their wings against his face, which so startled him that, for the first time in his life, he shuddered! This action of the birds dispelled his enchantment, and the spell under which he had been bound since his birth. That moment he returned to the good widow to thank her for her lucky gift which had been the means of turning the course of his destiny, and he could now return home safely, and be at rest, no longer compelled to be a wanderer all his life.
He married the widow's daughter, who had proposed the gift of doves, and had thus been instrumental in disenchanting him; and returned a wedded man to his native village.
His father rejoiced to have his son back again, no longer a wanderer, and gave him and his bride an affectionate reception; and the happy pair lived to a very old age, surrounded by a numerous family and respected by all their neighbours.