Infancy: The Rival Women

This story is part of the Infancy Gospels unit. Story source: The Lost Books of the Bible, edited by Rutherford H. Platt, Jr. (1926): The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ.

The Water Well

WHEN they came afterwards into the city Bethlehem, they found there several very desperate distempers which became so troublesome to children by seeing them that most of them died. There was there a woman who had a sick son whom she brought, when he was at the point of death, to the Lady St. Mary, who saw her when she was washing Jesus Christ. Then said the woman, "O my Lady Mary, look down upon this my son, who is afflicted with most dreadful pains."

St. Mary hearing her, said, "Take a little of that water with which I have washed my son, and sprinkle it upon him."

Then she took a little of that water, as St. Mary had commanded, and sprinkled it upon her son who, being wearied with his violent pains, had fallen asleep, and after he had slept a little, awaked perfectly well and recovered.

The mother, being abundantly glad of this success, went again to St. Mary, and St. Mary said to her, "Give praise to God, who hath cured this thy son."

There was in the same place another woman, a neighbour of her whose son was now cured. This woman's son was afflicted with the same disease, and his eyes were now almost quite shut, and she was lamenting for him day and night. The mother of the child which was cured, said to her, "Why do you not bring your son to St. Mary, as I brought my son to her, when he was in the agonies of death; and he was cured by that water, with which the body of her son Jesus was washed?"

When the woman heard her say this, she also went, and having procured the same water, washed her son with it, whereupon his body and his eyes were instantly restored to their former state. And when she brought her son to St. Mary and opened his case to her, she commanded her to give thanks to God for the recovery of her son's health, and tell no one what had happened.

THERE were in the same city two wives of one man, who had each a son sick. One of them was called Mary and her son's name was Caleb. She arose, and taking her son, went to the Lady St. Mary, the mother of Jesus, and offered her a very handsome carpet, saying, "O my Lady Mary accept this carpet of me, and instead of it give me a small swaddling cloth." To this Mary agreed, and when the mother of Caleb was gone, she made a coat for her son of the swaddling cloth, put it on him, and his disease was cured; but the son of the other wife died.

Hereupon there arose between them, a difference in doing the business of the family by turns, each her week. And when the turn of Mary the mother of Caleb came, and she was heating the oven to bake bread and went away to fetch the meal, she left her son Caleb by the oven, whom, the other wife, her rival, seeing to be by himself, took and cast him into the oven, which was very hot, and then went away.

Mary on her return saw her son Caleb lying in the middle of the oven laughing and the oven quite as cold as though it had not been before heated, and she knew that her rival the other wife had thrown him into the fire. When she took him out, she brought him to the Lady St. Mary and told her the story, to whom she replied, "Be quiet; I am concerned lest thou shouldest make this matter known."

After this her rival, the other wife, as she was drawing water at the well and saw Caleb playing by the well and that no one was near, took him and threw him into the well. And when some men came to fetch water from the well, they saw the boy sitting on the superficies of the water, and drew him out with ropes, and were exceedingly surprised at the child, and praised God.

Then came the mother and took him and carried him to the Lady St. Mary, lamenting and saying, "O my Lady, see what my rival hath done to my son, and how she hath cast him into the well, and I do not question but one time or other she will be the occasion of his death."

St. Mary replied to her, "God will vindicate your injured cause."

Accordingly a few days after, when the other wife came to the well to draw water, her foot was entangled in the rope so that she fell headlong into the well, and they who ran to her assistance, found her skull broken and bones bruised. So she came to a bad end, and in her was fulfilled that saying of the author, "They digged a well, and made it deep, but fell themselves into the pit which they prepared."

(900 words)

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