English



A modern fairy-tale as light as the wind, as enchanting as the ocean, as wondrous as the moon.


Translated by Oliver Cocks:
The beatings on the door resounded heavily, and laments rent the silence.
The parish priest awoke abruptly from his sleep. He got up hastily and slipped on his habit. His role meant that he had to seek to always maintain a seemly appearance, this was what everyone expected of him: he had to be the fullest embodiment of order, morality and compassion.
The housekeeper also awoke. Being afraid, she didn’t concern herself with her appearance like the priest (not that she generally worried about it to any greater extent), she simply wrapped herself in a small woollen dressing-gown and lit her oil lamp. Before running to let in that poor soul who was screaming desperately outside the church, she passed in front of the priest’s room and knocked in order to ascertain that he had heard the noise.
“Father!” she called out to him after a couple of raps on the wood.
“Yes, I’m coming!” He opened his door at once, visibly fatigued and apprehensive.
There was a woman behind the door of the church, that much was clear.
The housekeeper used the lamp as a light and the priest lifted the heavy bar of iron placed as a security measure behind the door.
“What is the matter, my daughter?” he asked before he had even seen the woman’s face.
“I’m about to give birth to my child! I’m alone, help me!” the desperate woman said.
The housekeeper and the priest would almost have liked to close the door again at that response. Neither of them had any affinity for children, and even less for women in labour. Every Wednesday, the day of catechism for the town’s children, was a nightmare for both. The priest couldn’t stand their impertinent questions, and the housekeeper detested the disorder that only those pests were able to create.
But the Lord taught one to open the door to those who have need of it; they would attend to her in some manner. The priest sought to comfort himself by thinking that if giving birth to a child was so difficult, no-one would any longer be born. He raised his gaze to the sky, made the sign of the cross, and fully opened the door.
As soon as he had opened the door, he held out his arm to give support to the woman and invited her to sit down on one of the church’s benches. It was too uncomfortable for the woman to stay seated there. A violent spasm compelled her to lower herself on the prie-dieu. She had the face of a sufferer and hands crossed on her stomach, as if she was about the express the most heartfelt of prayers.
In reality, the woman would have liked to be free to swear, but she restrained herself out of respect for that place, notwithstanding that for her it had never meant much.
The housekeeper thought ill of her. She had deduced her intentions, but it was natural- what could one ever expect of a woman of disrepute? It was enough to look at her clothes, and then she was alone at that hour of the night... An instinctive antipathy instantly asserted itself.
The priest roused her from her ill-humoured thoughts by asking her to bring some cushions, light blankets... All that could be necessary for the woman and her about-to-be-born child. They were forced to create an improvised bed.
The housekeeper complied and ran to get what was needed, even if she was unable to refrain from grumbling irritably, as she knew it would fall to her to slave away the whole night and assume every responsibility.
She swiftly prepared everything while the priest limited himself to praying next to the woman in labour. They seemed an exorcist and a possessed woman.
The housekeeper, irritated by the priest’s mutterings, told him to finish up with the praying and make himself useful by going to call the midwife. The priest, more due to the fear of being involved further in giving birth to the child than the understood necessity, didn’t let himself be told as such twice.
He coursed along the cobbled street with his bicycle. He skidded every so often out of agitation, but fortunately in that small town everything was within arm’s reach, and he thus reached within a short time the midwife’s house.
He knocked on the door, and then began to call out to her in a subdued tone: for he was embarrassed, the entire situation was highly embarrassing, and moreover he absolutely did not want to wake up the other residents. Throwing a few pebbles at her window, he was able to awake the woman.
The midwife was sleeping lightly, and she was accustomed to being summoned at the most ludicrous hours, but this time she was genuinely surprised: no delivery was expected by any of the town’s women. When she emerged and saw the priest she was even more surprised.
“Father?!”
“Sssssh!” hissed the priest, signalling to her to lower her voice.
“Okay, perhaps I should come down now,” the midwife then suggested. The priest nodded, approving of the idea.
That good man the priest was summoning her, there had to be a valid reason if he had woken her in the middle of the night.
“Who is it?” her husband asked in an annoyed tone.
“It’s the parish priest! Something must have happened!”
Both dressed themselves hastily and frenziedly. Her husband, being quicker (even if he was still intent upon finishing buttoning up his shirt), descended to open the door. Soon afterwards the midwife joined him.
The priest spoke of a mysterious woman in birth pains, the midwife asked nothing further and prepared herself to assist an umpteenth delivery.
Her husband came with her. His mother-in-law, who lived with them, would take care of their children if they were not back home before dawn.
The priest led the way perched atop his bicycle, the midwife’s husband followed him close behind, pedalling laboriously and transporting his copious better half at his back on the bicycle’s crossbar. It was necessary to accompany her (above all when she was called at late hours) to avoid mean-spirited chatter. The townspeople always had a “good” word to say about everyone.
When they reached the church the woman was ready. The midwife had arrived just in time for the extremely delicate operation.
The housekeeper thanked Heaven, because even with all her good will she would not have known how to bring forth that child. It was the most disgusting spectacle that she had ever seen, it instantly dispelled any regret for having never tested the joy of having a child. Watching that unknown woman, it seemed everything save for a pleasant event.
The midwife helped the woman with great skill. The small being came into the world, and was discovered to in fact be a female. After having been washed and dried she surprised everyone: she had white hair and extremely fair skin. She seemed a little ghost.


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