There was a merchant, named Jean Iouenne Kerménou, who had won a great fortune. He had several ships at sea, and he went to distant lands with goods from his own country, which cost him little, and which he resold very advantageously.
The merchant Jean Iouenne Kerménou
He had only one son, named Youenn, and he wanted to see him become a merchant and a seafarer, like him. So one day he spoke to her like this:
- Here I am getting old, my son, and, after having worked a lot, all my life, and having given myself a lot of trouble, I would finally like to remain quiet, at home, to wait for death, when it pleases God send it to me. But, you, who are young and full of strength and health, I would like to see you work and travel, as I did, because every man in this world must work in order to live. So I am going to give you a ship, loaded with the goods of the country, that you will go to sell in distant countries; you will come back with another shipment of foreign goods, and thus learn the trade and increase your holdings.
Youenn, who wanted nothing more than to leave his father's house and travel far, heard these words with great joy. So he was loaded with a ship of all kinds of merchandise, and he set out with letters for the countries he was going to. His father's old sailors were with him, and after a long navigation, with all kinds of weather, good and bad, he came to a town whose name I don't know. He presented his father's letters, received a warm welcome, sold his cargo well and made a lot of money for it.
One day as he was walking through the city, he saw a gathering of curious people and heard the barking of dogs. He approached, and was greatly astonished to see the corpse of a man delivered to a herd of dogs for pasture. He asked what this meant, and learned that this man was in great debt, and that after his death his body had been given to the dogs as pasture, according to the custom of the land, in respect of those who died insolvent. Youenn took pity on this poor dead man and said:
- Hunt dogs; I'll pay his debts and have him do the final homework.
The corpse was torn from the dogs, and Youenn had the city published that all those to whom this man owed something had only to come and find him and they would be paid.
A lot of people turned up, and it took a great deal of money to disinterest them all; then, when no one claimed anything more, the corpse was buried and buried with proper honors.
A few days later, Youenn Kerménou set sail again, to return to his country, with the little money he had left, and without buying other goods. As he was at sea with his sailors, they saw a ship all hung in black:
- What does this mean? They wondered; you have to go and see.
And they went towards the ship hung in black, and when they were near Youenn cried to those who were riding it:
- Why are you so hung in black? Has anything happened to you?
- Yes, there is enough misfortune! They answered him.
- What is it? Speak up, and if we can be of assistance to you, it will be my pleasure.
- There is a snake that lives on an island near here, and every seven years a princess of our royal family must be delivered to him.
- Is the princess with you?
- Yes, she is with us and we lead her to the serpent, and that is why our ship is strung in black.
Youenn, with these words, climbed on the ship hung in black and asked to see the princess. When he saw how beautiful she was, he exclaimed:
- This princess will not fall prey to the snake!
- Alas! replied the master of the ship, we must lead her to him, or he will put the whole kingdom to fire and blood.
- I tell you that she will not be led to the serpent, and that she will come with me. I will give you a lot of money in exchange, and you can buy or kidnap, somewhere else, another princess, whom you will deliver to the serpent.
- If you give us enough money ...
- I'll give you some at will.
And he gave them all the money he had left and took the princess to his ship.
The people of the ship hung in black then went to look for another princess, and Youenn Kerménou returned to his country, with the one he had bought them. But, he had no more money, having given everything.
When the old merchant heard that his son's ship had returned to port, he hastened to go there and asked him:
- Well ! My son, did you have a good trip?
- Yes, really, father, he was quite handsome, he replied.
- What are you bringing back? Show me, Youenn led the old man to his cabin and said to him, showing him the princess:
- See, father, that's what I'm bringing back.
- Yes, a beautiful girl, as there are many in those countries; but, do you have money too, since you have no goods?
- I had a lot of money, it is true, my father; but I don't have any more.
- What have you done with it, my son?
- I used half of it, father, to redeem and properly bury the corpse of a poor man thrown as pasture to dogs, because he had died without being able to pay his debts; and I gave the other half for this beautiful princess, who was led to a serpent, to be devoured by him.
- It is not possible that you have done so much follies, or you are a fool, my son!
- I'm only telling you the truth, father.
- Well ! Disappear from before my eyes, and never set foot again in my house, neither you nor your princess; I curse you.
And the old man went away, furious.
Youenn was very embarrassed; where to go with his princess, since his father did not want to receive him, and he had no more money? He went to an old aunt he had in the city and told her everything: how he had used his money to pay the debts of an insolvent dead man and to redeem the beautiful princess she saw with him. , and that one led to a serpent; and how finally his father had given them both his curse, forbidding them to ever set foot in his house again.
The aunt took pity on them, and gave them hospitality.
But, soon Youenn wanted to marry the princess. He went to his father to seek his consent.
- Is the girl rich? Asked the old man.
"She will be, one day, my father, since she is a king's daughter."
- Yes Da ! Something funny, who will have made you believe that she is the daughter of a king: do as you please, anyway; but, you will have nothing from me, if you marry her.
Youenn returned very sad and told the princess and her aunt of the reception her father had given her. Anyway, the marriage was celebrated, the aunt paid for it and ceded to the young spouses a small house, which she owned, not far from the city, and where they retired.
About nine or ten months later, the princess gave birth to a son, a very beautiful child.
An uncle of Youenn, a brother of his mother, also had ships on the sea, to go to trade in distant countries. He was getting old, he was also rich and no longer wanted to sail. He gave his nephew a beautiful ship, loaded with merchandise, to go and sell them in countries where the sun is rising. When the princess heard of this, she told her husband that they should put their portraits and that of their child, very similar, at the front of the ship. What was done. Youenn then bade farewell to his wife, tenderly embraced his child, and set sail. He was thrown by the wind, without his knowing it, into the town where his wife's father lived. The people of the city came running to see his ship, and when they saw the three portraits carved in the bow, under the foremast, they recognized in one of them the daughter of their king, and went to tell him. this. The king immediately ran to the ship, and as soon as he saw the portrait he cried:
- Yes, that's my daughter! So would she still be alive? I have to make sure, right now.
And he asked to speak to the captain of the ship. When he saw Youenn, he easily recognized that it was the man whose portrait was with that of his daughter, at the bow of the ship, and he said to her:
- My daughter is on your ship, Captain?
- Excuse me, lord, replied Youenn, there is neither girl nor woman on my ship.
- I'm telling you that she is here, somewhere, and I must see her, right now.
- Believe me, lord, your daughter is not on my ship.
- Where is she? Because you know her, no doubt, since her portrait is near yours, on the bow of your ship.
- I could not tell you, lord, where is your daughter, because I do not know her.
Youenn did not want to confess, for fear that his wife might be taken from him. The king was very angry, and said:
- We will see later; and as for you, your head will be cut off.
And he visited the whole ship, with his two ministers and some soldiers, who accompanied him, and, as they did not find the princess, Youenn was thrown in prison, while waiting for his head to be knocked off the next day, and his ship was plundered to the people, and afterwards set on fire.
Youenn, in his prison, related his adventures to his jailer, who seemed to be interested in his fate. He told him how his father had chased him out of his house, because he had used all the money he had from his cargo to redeem a dead man who had been thrown to the dogs and give him back. the last duties, and to deliver a beautiful princess from a serpent to whom she was led, which princess he had married and had given him a son; a brother of his mother had given him a ship to go and trade in distant lands, on the Levant coast, and he had placed on the bow of this ship the bust of his wife, his own and that of their child, carved in wood and very similar. The king claimed to recognize, in the bust of his wife, that of his daughter, whom he believed to have perished, victim of the serpent, and, as he did not find her on the ship, since it is true that she did not He was not there, having remained at home with her child, had had her thrown in prison, and her ship had been plundered by the people, then set on fire.
"So then," replied the jailer, "you saved the king's daughter from the serpent, and she is now your wife?"
- I bought her from the captain of a ship which took her to a serpent, in an island, and, according to what she says, she would be the daughter of a king, but I do not know of which king.
The jailer ran to tell the king what he had just heard. The king gave the order to bring the prisoner immediately into his presence, and, when he had heard his story, he cried out:
- It must be my daughter! Where is she ?
- She stayed at home, in my country, with her child, replied Youenn.
- You have to go get it for me, quickly, so that I can see it again, before I die!
And they gave Youenn a new ship to fetch the princess and bring her back to her father. The king's two prime ministers were also ordered to accompany him, fearing that he would not return. They arrived safely in the country of Youenn, and returned immediately, bringing back the princess and her child.
One of the king's two ministers had loved the princess for a long time, and during the crossing he looked up to her company and disapproved of her husband. So much so that the princess feared that he was meditating some treason against Youenn, and asked the latter to stay with her, in her room, and to go less often on the deck of the ship. But Youenn liked to be on deck and even to help the sailors himself, in their maneuvers, and his wife could not keep him near her. Seeing this, she put her gold chain around his neck. One night, when he was leaning on the edge of the ship, looking at the sea, which was calm and beautiful, the minister who was pursuing his wife approached him very gently, took him by the feet and threw him into the sea, head first. No one saw him do it. Shortly after, he shouted: - The captain has fallen into the sea!… Men were sent with boats to look for him, but it was too late, and he was not found. So the traitor went to the princess and told her that her husband had been thrown into the sea by a gust of wind and that he was drowned. The poor woman was sorry, at the thought that her husband was dead; but, fortunately, Youenn Kerménou was a good swimmer, and he swam towards a reef, which he saw not far from the place where he had fallen, and fled there. Let's leave him there, for a moment, and follow the princess to her country.
She mourned, dressed all in black, and gave no more sign of joy. She suspected some betrayal on the part of her father's minister, and she did not want to see him again. When she arrived at her father's house, she received a warm welcome and the old king wept with joy. They had a great meal, with feasts and public celebrations. But unfortunately ! The poor princess could no longer laugh and found no pleasure in anything. The perfidious minister always applied himself to pleasing her, and he did so much and so well that he ended by returning to favor with her. They got engaged and set a date for the celebration of the marriage. The betrothed forbade that the name of her first husband should ever be pronounced in her presence in the interval between the engagement and the marriage. Three years had passed since she had lost him, and she thought she would never see him again, and that she could remarry, in complete safety.
Let's go back now, while waiting for the day fixed for the wedding, to Youenn Kerménou, on his rock, in the middle of the sea.
He had been there for three years. His only food was the shells that he could collect against his rock and the fish that he managed to catch from time to time. He was completely naked and his body was all covered in hair, so much so that he looked more like an animal than a man. A hole under a rock served as his home. He still had his wife's gold chain around his neck. No ship ever passed there, and he had lost all hope of getting out. One night, while he was sleeping in his hole, he was awakened by a voice that said:
- Cold!… Cold!… Hou! Wow! Hou!… Then he heard the chattering of teeth of a man frozen with cold, and, a moment later, the sound of an animal or a man throwing himself into the water. All this astonished him; but he still did not go out to see what it could be. The next night it was the same. He did not speak yet, did not come out of his hole and saw nothing.
- What could all this be? He wondered; maybe he's a lost soul. Tomorrow evening, if I can still hear, I will speak and I will go out, to see.
The third night, he heard again, like the two preceding ones, and closer to him:
- Cold!… Cold!… Hou! Wow! Hou!… And chattering of teeth. He went out and saw, in the moonlight, a completely naked man, his body bloody and covered with horrible wounds, his stomach parted, with the entrails escaping from it, his eyes torn from their sockets, and, on the left side, an enormous wound, through which one could see his heart. He shuddered with horror, and yet asked:
- What do you need, my poor man? Speak up, and if I can do anything for you, I promise I will.
- Don't you recognize me then, Iouenn Kerménou? asked the ghost; I am the one whose corpse you snatched from the dogs which devoured it, and to whom you made return the last homework, after having paid his debts, with your own money. Out of gratitude for what you have done for me, I also want to do something for you. You no doubt wish to be withdrawn from this deserted rock, where you have been suffering for three years?
- Ah! If you could do me this service, my God! ... exclaimed Youenn.
- Promise me to do exactly everything I tell you, and I will get you out of there, and lead you to your wife.
- Yes, I'll do whatever you tell me.
- It is tomorrow that your wife is to marry the minister of your father-in-law who threw you into the sea.
- My God, is that true?
- Yes, because she believes you are dead, not having heard from you in any way for three years. But, promise me to give me half of all that will belong to your wife and you, in a year and a day, and I will lead you to the courtyard gate of your father-in-law's palace, to tomorrow morning, before the time when the procession will go to church.
- Yes, I promise to give you that, and more, if you do as you say.
- Well ! Now get on my back and remember well, for in a year and a day you will see me again, wherever you are!
Youenn climbed on the back of the dead man, who threw himself into the sea with him, swam like a fish and led him, for sunrise, to the door of his father-in-law's palace, then he left. went, saying:
- Goodbye, in a year and a day. When the doorman of the palace opened his door in the morning, he was frightened when he saw an animal like he had never seen before, and he fled running and crying for help. The servants came running up to his cries. They took Youenn for a savage, and, as he did not appear wicked, they approached him and threw pieces of bread at him, like a dog. It had been three years since he had eaten bread, and he would jump on it and eat it greedily. The maids and chambermaids of the palace had also come running to see the savage man. The princess's maid was there too, and she recognized her mistress's gold chain around her neck and ran to say:
- Mistress, if you only knew? ...
- What ? asked the princess.
- Your husband, Iouenn Kerménou…
- I made an express prohibition, you know, to pronounce this name in front of me, before I got married.
- But, mistress ... he is there, in the courtyard of the palace! ...
- That is not possible, my daughter, because it has already been three years since he died, as everyone knows.
- I assure you, mistress, that it is there; I recognized him well, by your gold chain, which he still has around his neck.
At these words, the princess hurried down into the courtyard, and as soon as she saw the so-called savage, although he looked more like an animal than a man, she recognized her husband, and jumped on his neck to kiss her. Then, she took him with her to her room and gave him clothes to dress. The servants and maids were amazed at what they saw, for none other than the princess's maid knew that this was her first husband. This happened on the morning of the day she was to be remarried, to her father's prime minister. At that time, it seems, the custom existed, at great weddings, for the meal to take place before going to church. We had invited a lot of people, from all corners of the kingdom, and also from neighboring kingdoms. When the time was right, we sat down to table. The princess, beautiful and beautifully adorned, was between her father and her fiance. Towards the end of the meal, they sang and told pleasant stories, as usual. The princess was asked by her future father-in-law to say something too, and she spoke like this:
- Monseigneur, please give me your opinion on the following case: I had a nice little box with a charming golden key. But, I lost the key to my box, and I regretted it very much. So I had a new one made. But, when the new key was ready, I found the old one, so that today I have two keys, instead of one. It embarrasses me a bit. I know the old key, it was good and I loved it, and I don't know what the new key will be, which I have never used yet. Tell me, please, which of the two keys should I keep, the old or the new?
- Keep your old key, my daughter, since it is good: nevertheless, if you show me the two keys? replied the old man.
"That's right," said the princess; wait a moment, and you will see them.
And she got up from the table, went to her room and returned a moment later, holding Iouenn Kerménou by the hand, and spoke as follows:
- Here is the new key! And she was pointing at the minister who was to marry her - and here is the old one, whom I have just found! It is a little rusty, because it has been lost for a long time; but, without delay, I will make her as beautiful as she ever was. This man is Iouenn Kerménou, my first husband, and the last too, because I will never have any other than him!
Everyone was amazed on hearing these words, and the minister turned as pale as the tablecloth in front of him. The princess spoke again and told the adventures of Youenn Kerménou throughout.
The old king, furious, then rose, and addressing himself to the servants, he said:
- Heat the oven, immediately, and throw this man in!
And he pointed to his prime minister. His order was carried out and the minister was thrown into a fiery furnace.
Youenn Kerménou and his wife remained at court, and henceforth lived there peacefully and happily. After nine months, the princess gave birth to another son. Their first child was dead.
Youenn no longer thought of the dead man and of the deal concluded between them to withdraw him from his deserted rock, in the middle of the sea. But, when the moment had come, after a year and a day, a day from the month of November that he and his wife were quietly by the fire, the mother warming her child, and he looking at them, someone unexpectedly arrived in the house, they did not know how, and said:
- Hello, Iouenn Kerménou!
The princess was quite frightened at the sight of this stranger, of a horrible aspect. Youenn recognized the dead man he had snatched from the dogs. The latter continued:
- Do you remember, Iouenn Kerménou, that when you were alone on your arid rock, in the middle of the sea, a year and a day ago, you promised to give in to me, to retire from there, a half of all that you and your wife would own, after a year and a day?
- I remember it, replied Iouenn, and I am ready to keep my word.
And he asked his wife for the keys, opened all the cupboards and all the chests in which were their gold, and their silver, their diamonds and their ornaments, and said:
- Look! I will give you from the bottom of my heart half of everything we have here, and elsewhere too.
- No, Iouenn Kerménou, it is not of these goods that I ask and I leave them all to you; but, here is something more precious and which still belongs to both of you (and he was showing the child in his mother's arms), and half of it belongs to me too.
- God ! cried the mother, hearing this, and hiding her child in her womb.
- Share my child! ... exclaimed the father, seized with terror.
`` If you are a man of your word, '' continued the other, `` think of what you promised me on the rock: that you would cede to me, at the end of a year and a day, half of all that would belong in common to your wife and to you, and I think this child is really both of you? ...
- Alas! it is true, I promised it, cried the unhappy father, with tears in his eyes; but, also think of what I did for you, when your corpse had been delivered to the dogs for pasture, and have mercy on me! ...
- I claim what is owed to me, half of your son, as you promised me.
- I will never allow my son to be split in two, rather take him whole! cried the mother.
- No, I only want half of it, according to our conventions.
- Alas! I promised it and I must keep my word, said Youenn, sobbing and covering his eyes with his hand.
The child was then stripped naked and stretched out on his back on a table.
- Now take a knife, Iouenn Kerménou, and cut my share, said the dead man.
- Ah! I would like to be still on the arid rock, in the middle of the sea! cried the unhappy father.
And, heart broken in pain, he raised the knife at his child, turning his head away. The other shouted to him at this moment:
- Stopped ! Don't hit your child, Iouenn Kerménou! I can clearly see now that you are a man of your word, and that you have not forgotten what I have done for you. I, too, have not forgotten what I owe you, and that it is thanks to you that I am now going to Heaven, where I could not go, before my debts had been paid and my body had received the burial. Goodbye then, in the Paradise of God, where nothing prevents me from going ...
And then he disappeared.
The old king died shortly after, and Youenn Kerménou was king in his stead.