StoriesThe Foundering Of The Fortuna
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The Child Of The Snow
By Philippe Vignier.
_Of an English merchant whose wife had a child in his absence, and told
him that it was his; and how he cleverly got rid of the child--for his
wife having asserted that it was born of the snow, he declared it had
been melted by the sun._
Moved by a strong desire to see and know foreign countries, and to meet
with adventures, a worthy and rich merchant of London left his fair and
good wife, his children, relations, friends, estates, and the greater
part of his possessions, and quitted the kingdom, well furnished with
money and great abundance of merchandise, such as England can supply
to foreign countries, and with many other things which, for the sake of
brevity, I do not mention here.
On this first voyage, the good merchant wandered about for a space of
five years, during which time his good wife looked after his property,
disposed of much merchandise profitably, and managed so well that her
husband, when he returned at the end of five years, greatly praised her,
and loved her more than ever.
The merchant, not content with the many strange and wonderful things
he had seen, or with the large fortune he had made, four or five months
after his return, again set forth in quest of adventures in foreign
lands, both Christian and pagan, and stayed there so long that ten years
passed before his wife again saw him, but he often wrote to her, that
she might know that he was still alive.
She was young and lusty, and wanted not any of the goods that God could
give, except the presence of her husband. His long absence constrained
her to provide herself with a lover, by whom shortly she had a fine boy.
This son was nourished and brought up with the others, his
half-brothers, and, when the merchant returned, was about seven years
Great were the rejoicings between husband and wife when he came back,
and whilst they were conversing pleasantly, the good woman, at the
demand of her husband, caused to be brought all their children, not
omitting the one who had been born during the absence of him whose name
The worthy merchant seeing all these children, and remembering perfectly
how many there should be, found one over and above; at which he was much
astonished and surprised, and he inquired of his wife who was this fair
son, the youngest of their children?
"Who is he?" said she; "On my word, husband, he is our son! Who else
should he be?"
"I do not know," he replied, "but, as I have never seen him before, is
it strange that I should ask?"
"No, by St. John," said she; "but he is our son."
"How can that be?" said her husband. "You were not pregnant when I
"Truly I was not, so far as I know," she replied, "but I can swear that
the child is yours, and that no other man but you has ever lain with
"I never said so," he answered, "but, at any rate, it is ten years since
I left, and this child does not appear more than seven. How then can it
be mine? Did you carry him longer than you did the others?"
"By my oath, I know not!" she said; "but what I tell you is true.
Whether I carried it longer than the others I know not, and if you
did not make it before you left, I do not know how it could have come,
unless it was that, not long after your departure, I was one day in our
garden, when suddenly there came upon me a longing and desire to eat
a leaf of sorrel, which at that time was thickly covered with snow. I
chose a large and fine leaf, as I thought, and ate it, but it was only
a white and hard piece of snow. And no sooner had I eaten it than I
felt myself to be in the same condition as I was before each of my other
children was born. In fact, a certain time afterwards, I bore you this
The merchant saw at once that he was being fooled, but he pretended to
believe the story his wife had told him, and replied;
"My dear, though what you tell me is hardly possible, and has never
happened to anyone else, let God be praised for what He has sent us. If
He has given us a child by a miracle, or by some secret method of which
we are ignorant, He has not forgotten to provide us with the wherewithal
to keep it."
When the good woman saw that her husband was willing to believe the tale
she told him, she was greatly pleased. The merchant, who was both wise
and prudent, stayed at home the next ten years, without making any other
voyages, and in all that time breathed not a word to his wife to make
her suspect he knew aught of her doings, so virtuous and patient was he.
But he was not yet tired of travelling, and wished to begin again. He
told his wife, who was very dissatisfied thereat.
"Be at ease," he said, "and, if God and St. George so will, I will
return shortly. And as our son, who was born during my last voyage, is
now grown up, and capable of seeing and learning, I will, if it seem
good to you, take him with me."
"On my word", said she "I hope you will, and you will do well."
"It shall be done," he said, and thereupon he started, and took with him
the young man, of whom he was not the father, and for whom he felt no
They had a good wind, and came to the port of Alexandria, where the good
merchant sold the greater part of his merchandise very well. But he was
not so foolish as to keep at his charge a child his wife had had by
some other man, and who, after his death, would inherit like the other
children, so he sold the youth as a slave, for good money paid down, and
as the lad was young and strong, nearly a hundred ducats was paid for
When this was done, the merchant returned to London, safe and sound,
thank God. And it need not be told how pleased his wife was to see him
in good health, but when she saw her son was not there, she knew not
what to think.
She could not conceal her feelings, and asked her husband what had
become of their son?
"Ah, my dear," said he, "I will not conceal from you that a great
misfortune has befallen him."
"Alas, what?" she asked. "Is he drowned?"
"No; but the truth is that the wind and waves wafted us to a country
that was so hot that we nearly died from the great heat of the sun. And
one day when we had all left the ship, in order that we each might dig a
hole in which to shield ourselves from the heat,--our dear son, who, as
you know was made of snow, began to melt in the sun, and in our presence
was turned into water, and ere you could have said one of the seven
psalms, there was nothing left of him. Thus strangely did he come
into the world, and thus suddenly did he leave it. I both was, and
am, greatly vexed, and not one of all the marvels I have ever seen
astonished me so greatly."
"Well!" said she. "Since it has pleased God to give and to take away,
His name be praised."
As to whether she suspected anything or not, the history is silent and
makes no mention, but perhaps she learned that her husband was not to be
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