Italian: Catherine and Her Fate

This story is part of the Italian Popular Tales unit. Story source: Italian Popular Tales by Thomas Frederick Crane (1885).

Catherine and Her Fate

THERE was once a merchant who was very rich and had greater treasures than the king. In his reception room stood three wonderfully beautiful seats. One was of silver, the second of gold, and the third of diamonds. This merchant had an only daughter, whose name was Catherine, and who was fairer than the sun.

One day as Catherine was sitting in her chamber, the door suddenly opened of itself, and there entered a tall, beautiful lady, who held in her hand a wheel. "Catherine," said she, "when would you rather enjoy your life, in youth or in old age?"

Catherine gazed at her in amazement, and could make no answer.

The beautiful lady again asked: "Catherine, when would you rather enjoy your life, in youth or in old age?"

Then thought Catherine: "If I say in youth, I must suffer for it in old age; wherefore I will rather enjoy my life in old age, and in youth God's will be done." So she answered: "In old age."

"Be it as you have wished," said the beautiful woman, turned her wheel once, and disappeared. Now this beautiful tall lady was poor Catherine's Fate.

A few days later, her father suddenly received news that some of his ships had been wrecked in a storm; a few days after, he learned that several more of his ships had foundered; and to cut the matter short, scarcely a month had passed when he was himself deprived of all his riches. He had to sell all that he had, and this, too, he lost, until at last he remained poor and wretched. From grief he fell ill and died.

So poor Catherine remained all alone in the world, without a penny, and with no one to give her shelter. She thought: "I will go to another city and seek me a place there." So she set out and walked until she came to another city.

As she was going through the streets, a noble lady happened to be standing by the window, and asked her: "Where are you going, all alone, pretty maiden?"

"Ah! Noble lady, I am a poor girl and would like to find a place to earn my bread. Can you not find use for me?" So the noble lady received her, and Catherine served her faithfully.

Some days later the lady said one evening: "Catherine, I must go out for a time, and will lock the house door."

"Very well," said Catherine, and after her mistress had gone, she took her work and sat down and sewed.

Suddenly the door opened, and her Fate entered. "So," she cried, "are you here, Catherine? And do you think now that I am going to leave you in peace?"

With these words, her Fate ran to all the cupboards, dragged out the linen and clothes of Catherine's mistress, and tore everything into a thousand pieces.

Catherine thought: "Woe is me if my mistress returns and finds everything in this condition; she will certainly kill me!" And in her anguish she opened the door and fled.

Her Fate, however, gathered up all the torn and ruined things, made them whole, and laid them away in their places. When the mistress returned, she called Catherine, but Catherine was nowhere to be seen.

"Can she have robbed me?" she thought, but when she looked about, nothing was gone. She was very much astonished, but Catherine did not return, but hastened on until she came to another city.

As she was passing through the streets, another lady, standing by the window, asked her: "Where are you going, all alone, pretty maiden?"

"Ah! Noble lady, I am a poor girl and would like a place to earn my bread. Can you not make use of me?" Then the lady took her in, and Catherine served her and thought now she could rest in peace. It lasted, however, but a few days.

One evening, when her mistress was out, her Fate appeared again and addressed her harshly: "So, here you are now. Do you think you can escape me?" Then the Fate tore and destroyed everything that it found, so that poor Catherine again fled, in her anguish of heart.

To cut the matter short, poor Catherine led this frightful life seven years, flying from one city to another, and everywhere attempting to find a place. Her Fate always appeared after a few days, and tore and destroyed her employers' things, so that the poor girl had to flee. As soon as she had left the house, the Fate restored everything and put it in its place.

(800 words)

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