Short Stories

The woman of the light hands

A wild residence built on the edge of a fiery, deep stream on the green mountain, the strong-souled warrior Citadel of Psébadé and his wife, Adaya, beautiful as a sun, were such a safe haven that he feared no one there. .

As he set off on his campaign, Adaya would sit at the window of the tallest tower, reach out, and light her way: this incomparable woman had the power to make light from her white fingers. She thus guided her husband’s footsteps as he descended into the mist of dawn to the fertile plains. And when, at night, pursued by the enemy, he would return laden with the spoils of the invasions, cast a web bridge across the stream, illuminate it powerfully, and as soon as Psybade crossed it, he would hasten to lift it and hide its hands. radiant, causing the pursuers to be lost in darkness, wet with the foam of the waterfalls that they dared not cross, and exhausted, to return to their homes.

Now it came to pass that these enviable feats swelled Psebadé with indiscreet pride to the point that, on a feast day, among passing travelers, he began to boast and brag.

– Who would beat me? – He asked. – No one. Even the country of the cyclopean giants would come back alive and rich if it gave me the shingle to steal for these bands. Just yesterday I crossed the chain with eighteen spotted horses and twenty-one stolen cows on the plain. None of those who were chasing me (and they were over a hundred) could catch me!

Adaya, hearing him speak thus, bowed his head, and suddenly sulked, murmured:

“And I’m nothing in your weapon deeds?”

Psebadé, looking at her for a moment in silence, with his eyebrows drawn and his mouth arched, replied:

– I’m going alone for the invasions. Are you going in my place? Is it your life or mine that the arrows threaten? Shut up then, woman, you don’t know what you say.

“Man, your vanity shames me,” murmured beautiful Adaya, lifting her head firmly.

“There are braver heroes than you in this world.”

Psebadé, clapping his hands on the table, stood up, his heart pierced with rage.

“You’ll soon know what my true value is,” he said.

And just then he saddled his horse and departed.

This time, it was inexplicably lost. He drifted more and more bitterly every day, was pushed to all places where chance led him, could not but plunder thin subsistence. The horse shuffled along the rocky paths, strangely tired, and the beautiful felt pelt, faded by rain and suns, tore at the middle of its back. Then, at the limit of strength, he decided to return home. Not to return empty-handed, on the way back he attacked a village of cattle-ridden fences, but was unable to steal anything and was chased by a group of warriors riding fast horses. One night, Adaya, from the top of the tower where she had closed, heard him scream for help on the other side of the stream. He looked down at his hands of light on his knees, but did not move, thinking that he must overcome the darkness alone, since he had so decided. She waited, listening to the noise through the door, her husband’s determined steps on the flagstones. The silence stiffened.

Uneasy, she went to the window, opened the shutter, and spread out her shining fingers. The edge of the chain was deserted. In the distance, toward the lowlands, he saw a black spot on a large slab. She hurried off and, leaping from rock to bush along the unkempt shore, came to the place where the body of Psebad was, which the tumultuous stream had dragged.

I was dead. She gave a cry of fright and despair, fell on him and hugged him until dawn. When the day came, he buried it, knelt on the grave, and prayed. So he stayed seven days and seven nights with his face in his hands. On the morning of the eighth day a rider passed by. She was beautiful and big and her hair shone in the rising sun.

Seeing that beautiful woman lost in disgust, she got off her horse and asked her why she was so sorry.

– What does it matter? She answered. – You can’t do anything for me. Follow your way.

The man answered him:

Rescuing a suffering woman brings luck to the adventurers. Think well. I’ll be back in an hour. Then you will tell me what pain hurts you and I will help you.

He reassembled and walked along the chain.

Adaya followed him with her eyes. He saw him drive his horse into the turbulent waters. He thought: “It will drown.” I wanted to scream at him to be careful, but had no time, and the foam-soaked horse and rider were already regaining their footing on the other bank. How brave! She thought. “The crying hero was less brave, to my unhappiness. For the queen of the seas and rivers, I must test this man!” He raised his head, spread his arms and prayed to heaven like this:

“Terrible and generous Goddess, makes the day darken, the storm break, the lightning rips the clouds, the waterfalls cover the earth!”

The harsh lady of the rivers did so. No sooner had Adaya just spoken than heavy clouds rose, turned out the daylight, fell into blinding floods. In the confusion of the storm, the light-fingered woman bent over her husband’s grave suddenly heard a crackling gallop. He rose again and through the downpour saw the knight coming toward him again.

– Why did you come back? She shouted at him.

He answered her laughing:

“Could I leave you in the middle of a storm like this?”

“You risked a thousand deaths to cross this stream twice.” See how angry you are.

“I didn’t cross her, it was my horse,” the man said, laughing even harder.

That answer pleased Adaya, who lowered his head to hide the glare from his eyes. The knight sat beside him and covered his shoulders with his large coat. Then, suddenly, the rain stopped, the clouds scattered, the sun shone again, high in the sky, the earth around it turned green, only the grave’s floor became dark and arid.

“Look,” said Adaya. – Everything around us seems to taste the happiness of living, everything has blossomed in an instant except the square of earth where is a dead. Because?

“Because the one lying there only loved himself,” answered the man. – I didn’t love life.

Adaya bowed her head and murmured:

– What lies there loved me and I loved him, was my husband.

“You loved him, but he didn’t love you,” said the man. “If I had loved you, the grave would be covered with flowers.”

He looked at the young woman and smiled at her. She too looked at him long.

“How good your heat is,” she told him.

Then, abruptly coming out of the cloak of his coat, he began to spread the mound of dirt he had raised with great angry gestures. Her mate asked her why she was so angry. She murmured:

“This man, who only loved himself, does not deserve to remember his life.”

“You made a futile effort to lift his grave,” the knight told him. – You make a futile effort to destroy it. Let him be as he is, that seeing him barren, those who love themselves only blush with shame.

And the man of the mighty hands and the woman of the light-hands rose and departed together along the stream under the calm sun. Henri Gougaud The Treasure Tree Lisbon, Gradiva, 1998

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