Il était une fois…
A maiden lived in a village by the sea. Great was her beauty, so great that many a man came to the village to ask for her hand. Wealthy and poor, noble and fair, just and witty – all flocked to the village in pursuit of the maiden’s hand. None was liked enough, none was welcomed by the maid, save the dark haired captain of the ship bearing red sails.
He asked for her hand, and she agreed – at once, for she loved him as he loved her, from the first glance. A wedding was planned for the May day, and the captain went away to find the largest pearl on earth to give to his love on their wedding day.
May Eve came, but the captain didn’t come – and the Maiden went to the beach, to watch the waves rise and fall, and to meet her beau- as it was the agreement between them- but all she found was his ship, broken and crushed by the waves. The crew was dead, but the captain was still alive. She ran to him, and kissed him a thousand times, but his strength left him, and he died, giving her a white silk pouch spattered with blood – and a great pearl lay inside.
Desperate, she cried out for Death, and he came, tall and clad in black, his long, white hair flowing in the salty wind. Handsome was his face, but bone white, and his eyes sparkled grimly. Astonished, the Maiden watched as the souls of the crewmen marched towards L’Ankou, for indeed, that was he who came to collect them.
The captain rose to join his mates, but she clung to him, and pleaded with L’Ankou:
‘Do not take him from me, take me instead!’
‘What is the use of that, gosse?’ He asked ‘The corpse reanimated, and you, dead? Have you no pity? He’s dead, and I can do nothing about it’
‘Take me then’, she asked again. ‘So that we can be together ‘
L’Ankou looked at her, and there was pity in his eyes for he was not without a heart, whatever people say.
‘Your time is not done yet. But in a year and a day, if you’re so willing, I shall come For you.’
With that, he disappeared, and the girl returned to the village. For six months she was in mourning, and on the seventh month, a ship came – and a brave young captain saw the maiden, and a wedding was planned again. The village hags warned her against it, but she wouldn’t listen.
On her wedding day, three months later, she was radiant, but the groom was missing. Long she waited, but he never came. She was in such desperation and pain, that the doctor was summoned – and that very night a baby was born, too early, too soon.
The news broke her, and she called out for Death, but he never came, for it wasn’t the time. Two months she spent alone in her house, never venturing out, but one day her strength came back, and she went to the sea.
L’Ankou was there, and she knew the time was up.
‘Are you ready?’
She shook her head.
‘Give me more time, please. I’ll.mend my ways, I promise you. Let me live for a while longer!’
He sighed and was gone in an instant, for he knew it would come to this. All humans cling to life, that’s the way of things. And L’Ankou had his patience.
For ten years the Maiden lived, completely differently, pious and kind, humble and – still beautiful. A decent man has proposed to her, and she accepted. She had no children, but she took in orphans, and became an epitome of Christian goodness.
On the Eve of All Saints, a guest came by, a guest she knew at once. Tall and pale, with white hair, glimmering in the moonlight, L’Ankou came and knocked three times – and she went out.
‘It is time, gosse, ‘he said ‘look, your light is almost out’
A candle was burning in his hand, a mere memory of a candle.
‘Must I go? What about my children?’
‘They will carry out what you have started. It is time.’
For hours she pleaded with him, but he was adamant. Finally, she looked at her house for the last time, and a tear ran down her cheek.
‘Tell me I did well, Ankou. Take me now and be merciful to those I love ‘
‘You did well, gosse. And I shall be’
She died peacefully, as all good people do – and was well remembered. What is the point,you ask?
The point is, the time comes – and L’Ankou visits everyone, ready or not. All we can do,is to be ready when he does.