THE FOUNTAIN OF OBLIVION.
(La Fontèna del Omblia.)
Going up through the Fassa-valley behind Perra one arrives on the Soyàl-bridge and enjoys a surprising view of the little village of Manzòn, which lies to the west upon a mountain terrace, and is surmounted by immense, vertical rocks in a very picturesque manner. There the Vajolétt-valley unfolds itself, and through it flows the Soyàd-brook, bordered on both sides by green mountain pastures. And there, where the pastures end, tower dark rocks called the "Porte Néjgre", which means "black gates". The old inhabitants of the Fassa-valley said that the mountains beyond them were bewitched, for behind the black gates the stony Rosegarden with its torn walls immediately begins. On the south side, also, with the Mugòni, and in the so-called "Vaèl" everything is a rocky wilderness. Once people did not dare to go up there for they said that witches lived there, and that it was dangerous to meet them. When summer was over, and the shepherds left the Vajolett-valley, the witches also came lower down (so it was said) and on the height of Tschampedie, a plain meadowground, they were often said to have danced in the moonlight on clear autumn nights.
A young man named Gordo, of Manzòn, often declared that he did not fear the witches at all, and that he would like to see them dance. He, therefore, stayed on when the alpine herdsmen left the Vajolettvalley with their cattle in the last days of summer. He hid himself in a "Tobià" (a hay shed) on the Tschampediè, and waited to see what would happen. Soon after midnight he heard a confusion of voices outside. He looked out cautiously through a hole: over on the far side of the valley, wrapped in black shadows, stood the great peaks of Larsék, down below the Soyàl brook roared, clear moonlight flooded the meadow plain, but the confusion of voices had ceased. All at once, however, it started again: all around, from behind bushes and hillocks, numerous witches appeared, looking very gloomy. They cried out, making high jumps, and approaching the hut from every side. The lonely spectator began to feel some fear, and would have liked to run away, but he could no longer find a way out. In the middle of the witches he saw the Striòna, the head witch of whom he had often heard tell. She was holding a long, black birch broom, and her shrill voice sounded above the songs and laughter of all the others. The head witch came in front of the shed and cried out:
"There must be a man in there out with him! We won't allow him to mock us."
Gordo did not move, and she came to the door, knocking with her broom stick and shouting even louder than before:
"Open I or else we will mount the roof and enter that way."
Gordo realised that there was no use in hiding himself any longer, so he opened the door and went out. Immediately the witches surrounded him and caught him with their long nailed fingers, plucking at his moustache with mocking laughter. Then one of the older ones said:
"It is a young one, a very young one; curiosity must have brought him here."
His embarrassment pleased the witches, and they enjoyed it very much. They pulled him to the other side of the hut and danced around him. During a pause the Striòna caught him by the sleeve and asked him:
"Who is your queen?"
And as Gordo only gazed at her, without comprehending, she proceeded:
"You don't know what I mean, therefore you have no queen. If that is so, you will have to choose one, and that immediately. Look well at us all, and place this garland upon the head of whoever you like best. Then she will be your queen, and you must serve her faithfully, and she will grant you the civic rights of our circle."
She handed him a little garland made. of dry brushwood. Gordo took the garland and looked at li li, the witches. But they were all so horrible that he could not bring himself to crown any of them. The witches noticed this and got very angry. They all crowded around him, shouting furiously at him, and they began to beat him with their broom sticks'. At last they dragged him over the meadows and away into the forest. Then they bound him to a tree, and went away, crying as they did so:
"On the anniversary look for your queen!"
The night passed, and Gordo hoped that someone would come and set him free. But nobody came, for the mountain pastures were deserted, and nothing stirred there any longer. One day followed another, and Gordo felt as if he could neither live nor die. Winter came, and Gordo felt no cold, only a terrible languor. In his right hand he still held the garland of dry brushwood which the Striòna had given him. His arms were stiff, and by degrees his body seemed to become wooden. When spring was beginning, he grew into a tree, losing his shape, and turning a dark brown colour. Resin began to run down his face, all kinds of animals crawled upon him, and no one coul d believe for a moment that a man was hidden there. So the witches had really bewitched him.
Gordo's disappearance was, naturally, much discussed by the people in Soyàl and Manzòn, and they all agreed that he must have been seized by the witches and turned into dust and smoke. Only the little pock marked Vinella maintained that Gordo was not dead, but simply bewitched, and that they should go and try to save him. When it became warm and sunny again she searched for him anxiously, and earnestly admonished other people to do likewise, but it was all in vain.
In the following summer, Vinella came as a shepherdess upon the mountain pastures of Gardètscha in the upper Vajolett-valley. There she stood for hours with her sheep, looking up at the rockwalls of the mountain Tschadenàtsche, around which the "Gayòles" were fluttering and croaking loudly. Whenever Vinella heard these birds she thought to herself: they are very clever creatures; they wander about a great deal, seeing very much and knowing a lot they could surely tell me what happened to Gordo. This thought occupied her mind day after day.
In the Alpine dairy of Gardètscha, there were two other persons working with Vinella: an old woman who made butter and cheese, and a "Beetz da Tjurè", a boy of about fourteen years who tended the goats. The men who looked after the cows were in another hut.
One night Vinella awoke after a heavy dream, and lay there without sleeping. Suddenly she heard a long and ghostly call in the distance. She was so frightened by this that she awakened the old woman. The latter got cross and scolded the girl, but Vinella implored her to listen, as something terrible must be approaching. Almost at that moment the same horrible cries could be heard outside. Vinella began to shiver all over, but, the old woman, who had also heard them, quickly put on her skirt and said:
"I know that call it is the so-called "Baèl", the night cries of the witches. They are standing on the Mugòni, crying down into the valley. Moreover, when the full moon is shining as it is tonight they are mad. They will cry until the moon will sink behind, the Crepes de Davòy, then they throw fierywheels and retreat to their caves upon those mountains behind the Mugòni, the "Crodes del Vaèl''. But the fiery wheels fly upon the rock peaks over Tschampedie. There they burn and the whole place reeks with smoke. Those peaks for that reason are called "Tsigolàdes" (those that smell of burning). Now I must warn the men at once."
"Why warn the men?", asked the girl.
"Because they would be in great danger if they left their huts after those cries."
The old woman hurried out but she soon came back again.
"So", she said, "now I have told the men; they will not stir while the witches cry; we shall lie down and continue our sleep, it is just past midnight."
Vinella obeyed, but she was unable to sleep any more. Poor Gordo, she thought, how those wicked, malicious witches may have tormented you ! She remained awake until morning. Then it occurred to her that it might be best to go straight to the witches and ask them what had happened to Gordo. She could not shake off this thought during the whole summer, but she did not dare to speak about it.
When the first snow had fallen and it was time to leave the mountain pastures, the Beetz came into the hut one evening with a full leather sack. Then he smiled significantly. Some people who happened to be there asked the boy what it contained, and he proudly answered:
"Now you will stare! I have got a whole sack. of "Fool de Nintschòles" (a sack full of cembra pine nuts).
And he shook the nuts upon the table so that they might all take some. Then some of the men wanted to know where he had found them, and the boy told them that for a long time he had noticed that the Gayòles were constantly flying up to that isolated "Tschuskòn" (cripple tree) which could be seen high up on, the rock wall; he had climbed up there and behind the Tschuskòn he had found a hidden cleft in which the nuts were stored.
"A winter's store, then", one of the men observed, "the Gayòles do that; what they don't use at once they lay aside for the winter."
"Then it should not be taken away", said Vinella, "what will the poor creatures live on during the winter if we steal their store from them?"
Everybody laughed, and the goat herd cried.
"Vinella is clever she wants to leave the nuts to the Gayòles and be hungry herself. Remember, Vinella, if you get hungry you will grow thin and pale, and your pock marks will become even bigger; don't be silly, therefore, but take what you can get."
At this remark Vinella left the table, for it always pained her if anyone reminded her of her pockmarks, and she busied herself at the fire place.
When the others had gone away, however, there was still a large heap of cembra pine nuts on the table and the Beetz suddenly came back and said:
"Don't be angry, Vinella. I will give you the rest of the Nintschòles."
Vinella thanked him and cleared away the nuts. On the . next morning she took them up to the Tschuskòn of which the boy had spoken; she found the hidden cleft and shook the nuts into it. As soon as this had happened a Gayòle flew up and began to speak with a human voice:
"You are a good girl", it said, "you are returning the store which is so necessary for us, and you will, therefore, be rewarded. Take out three nuts again and keep. them, and if ever you wish to learn one of the secrets which sleep in the mountains and are unknown to men, place the three nuts on your left hand and look at them. Then I shall soon come and tell you what you want to know. But guard the three nuts carefully, for if you should lose them you will not be able to call me any more."
Vinella was delighted at this for she was thinking of Gordo, but she did not dare to ask about him immediately. The next day, however, when they were talking of leaving the alpine pastures, and Vinella had some free time, she took out the three nuts and looked at them. After a while the Gayòla appeared and asked what Vinella wanted. The latter told it about Gordo who had gone up to the dancingplace of the witches a year ago, and had since disappeared without leaving any trace.
"I know about it," the Gayòla replied, "I learned the story from a "Tsipàl" (a wood-owl) which often flies with the witches. Know that Gordo is alive, but he is in "Visidàya" (apparent death) and he can only be awakened by bringing him a "Trosilla", that is a white Alprose that is very scarce and isolated up there behind the "Porte Néjgre" where the Vayolònmountains have their highest and wildest peaks. It is not easy, to find a Trosilla, and even men are rarely able to do it, but you will succeed easily."
Then the Gayòla went on to describe exactly where the tree was, into which Gordo had been banished, how the Trosilla had to be put into the rind of this tree, and what words had to be spoken to break the spell. Finally it asked:
"Is Gordo your fiancé?"
The girl blushed and said: "No, he is not my fiancé, but I know him, and I don't want him to remain in the witches' power."
"You will have to suffer much," the Goyòla answered, "for he has now been a long time in the witches' power, and they don't want to let him go free. It will mean a fight between you and the witches, and, they are very powerful. Take care I His "Anda" (aunt) with whom he lives is also a witch, and so also is her friend, the rich widow down at Perra, on whom she often calls. They are all in agreement. Still, only try, perhaps you will succeed in conquering the witches.
,Vinella took courage, and set to work. First she had to procure a Trosilla, a white Alprose. She wandered up along the river to the "Porte Néjgre", and around the rocks in the deserted wilderness of lofty peaks. There Vinella roved, searching for hours, until finally she succeeded in finding a Trosilla. She took it and ran quickly down to the valley, for she was afraid of seeing, in the clefts of the high peaks, evil spirits who made strange signs, and threw stones down into the valley. Vinella, however, arrived safely at the valley and the mountain pasture of Gardetscha.
She was highly elated, and looked admiringly at the snowwhite Trosilla, upon which depended the success of the attempt at rescue.
On the next morning Vinella went over to the Tschampedie, and searched in the forest for the place which the Gayòla had described. With the flower in her hand she wandered up and down, and after a short time she found the right place. Gordo had become completely merged in the tree, except that his withered right hand, in which he still held the little garland of brushwood, could clearly be recognised. Vinella put the white flower into a fissure in the tree rind, stepped back a little, and spoke loudly and clearly the words which were to break the witches' spell:
"Zide via burta stries " (Go away you ugly witches!)
Now it happened to be exactly the anniversary of Gordo's bewitchment, and the witches themselves had told him that on this day he should search for his queen. So the tree trunk burst and Gordo came out. Before Vinella could anticipate it, he placed the garland upon her head, saying:
"This is my queen".
Vinella then became so confused and astonished that she ran away. Gordo tried to follow her, but his feet refused to obey him, for it was necessary for him to accustom himself to walk again by degrees. Vinella vanished from his sight. She hastened down the path to the brook, and went up to Soyàl. On arriving there she noticed that some children were gazing at her in astonishment, but she passed quickly by, and went into her house. Here she was received by her family with cries of amazement and inquiry, one showing her the garland which she still wore on her head, and another remarking that her face was all changed for the pock marks had vanished. In her excitement and hurry, Vinella completely forgot that she was wearing the garland. Hastily she took it off, but how astonished she was on discovering that the dried brush wood, of which the garland was made, had been transformed into pure gold.
"Have you become engaged to a prince?", asked her mother. And as Vinella's face became as red as fire, and she was unable to answer, her mother continued:
"This is a "Zendalina" (a bridal garland), and certainly the most precious and beautiful Zendalina that I have ever seen. Where did you get it?"
Vinella was obliged to tell all about it. The neighbours also came and wondered, and they congratulated the girl. After having told everything, Vinella hastened up to the garret and hid her garland in an old chest there. The parents and neighbours continued to talk about the occurrence for a long time. They also spoke about Gordo, and agreed that he was quite a decent young man, and that he would surely soon come to marry the girl.
In the meantime Gordo had gone slowly and wearily down to Manzòn, where he lived with his aunt, an old stepsister of his dead father. She was very pleased, but also a little disappointed at seeing him. She soon asked him if he had brought a gold bridal garland along with him. Gordo answered in' the negative, telling her what had happened. When he described how the witches had taken him out of the hut and surrounded him, and how horrible they looked, the Anda only laughed and said that if he had only chosen. to put the garland on one of them, the witch in question would immediately have become beautiful, and he would have liked her very much. Gordo went on with his story, but as soon as he told that he had been rescued by Vinella, adding that he now regarded her as his fiancée, the Anda got very angry and said:
"What are you thinking of? I have already chosen a fiancée for you down at Perra, a young widow who will suit you very well ' She has a fine "Mees" (a farm) and her "Tschentüna" (silver bridal belt) alone is worth three cows. And you want to forego such a fiancée and run after a beggarly shepherdess?" Gordo replied that Vinella had saved him and that she was as good as an angel.
"And she is also pock marked," cried the Anda, sneeringly, "if you really think of becoming engaged to this miserable woman you are nothing but a "Lella" (blockhead), but I will put you in your right mind. Just go down once to Perra and look at my friend, then I am sure you will open your eyes and change your mind."
The next morning she put fresh flowers and new feathers on his hat, and pushed him out of the door, commanding him to go to Perra. But Gordo did not go to Perra, but went to Soyàl and became engaged to Vinella.
When he returned in the evening he told everything to the Anda, pointing out that Vinella was no longer pock marked, and he described the beautiful golden garland. He was expecting that the Anda would express herself angrily over this, but she did not. On the contrary, she remained quite calm, and she just smiled to herself. On the following day, also, she said nothing about the matter, but she went down to Perra, and there she had a consultation with her friend. Then when Gordo next wanted to go to Soyàl she led him back into the room and remonstrated with him.
"Be careful of your Vinella", she said, "she is a cunning person. I have heard unfavourable reports about her. She is said to have secret intercourse with the witches; in any case, the golden garland of which she is so proud, is just an ordinary witch deception, about which you can easily satisfy yourself if you wish to do so."
When Gordo wore a surprised and incredulous expression at these words, the Anda continued:
"Get her to show you the garland, and when you see it repeat softly a well known saying with which one can break spells. After that you will soon see what the garland is worth."
She taught him the saying, but it was an evil saying which was able to destroy gold. Gordo remembered the saying and went to Vinella. As soon as she brought the garland, following his request, Gordo repeated the saying in a low voice. Immediately the gold disappeared, and the garland consisted of dried brush wood as before.
Vinella became disconsolate at this, while her fiancé grew very quiet and thoughtful. He soon went away, and returned home, where the Anda questioned him as to what had happened, and she was pleased and contented by the information she received.
"Now you see that I was right. In spite of her youth Vinella understands all kinds of sorceries, and such a woman is good for nothing."
From that day onwards Gordo fell more and more under the influence of the Anda. At first he felt sorry for Vinella, but as he believed what his aunt said, she succeeded in making him distrust the girl more and more, and in the end she was so successful that he broke off his engagement with Vinella and turned his attentions to the young widow in Perra.
On hearing this news Vinella became quite desperate, and was crying from morning till night. In the afternoon of the third day she was at home alone, having the fatal garland of brush wood before her on the table, and gazing at it. There was a knock at the door. It was a strange beggar woman asking for alms.
"What can I give you?" Vinella said, "I myself have nothing."
"Oh, I can find use for anything," answered the beggar, "even the most trifling and worthless article."
"If you can use everything, take this garland", replied Vinella, "perhaps it will bring you more luck than it has brought me."
The beggar took the garland, thanked her, and went away. A moment later Vinella regretted this, and wished to get beck her garland. She therefore ran out after the beggar, but it was useless, for the woman had vanished. That night Vinella could not sleep. At dawn she got up and walked out into the open air to be alone. It was late autumn, but the air was calm and clear, and the sun was nice and warm. Around the Vajolett-valley the great peaks were towering silently. On the right, behind Soyàl, the Larsèk, with its gigantic rock walls was soaring to the sky. A wild water rushes down there, and a great deal of waste matter, brought down by the brook, spreads through the forest.
Vinella went to the edge of the forest and sat down upon a stone. Then she heard the cry of a bird resounding far through the silence. "A Gayòla" the girl thought oh, if it could only be an acquaintance of mine !"
And, in truth, it was. The bird, therefore, came flying along, wanting to know how Vinella was, and when Vinella had told about her sorrow, the bird answered:
"I told you at the start that it would be difficult for you. You over came the evil mountain spirits; they retreated to the last ridge over the Masarè, not even daring to come down any more to the Tschampedie, but the valley-witches, who are much more active and cunning, have your fiancée completely in their power. He has therefore become blind, believing every deception they practise upon him, and he is running headlong to his rain."
"Is it not possible to save him from that?", the girl asked.
"You could do so," answered the Gayòla, "but only if you succeeded in bringing him up there to your home."
"My home is in Soyàl," said Vinella.
"My dear child, you are mistaken" answered the Gayòla, "the people you believe to be your parents, are not your parents. They only adopted you. You are the daughter of a "Vivàna" (a mountain fairy) who lived up there upon the heights of Lars&. One evening as she tried to walk through the Soyàl brook, which was very swollen after a bad thunderstorm, carrying you in her arms, she was seized by a bad water spirit who had been lying in wait for her for a long time, and he pulled her down beneath the waves. So she was never seen again, but you were fished out of the brook by a man who was working in the wood, and he brought you to his wife in Soyàl. These are your foster parents. So your home is not in Soyàl, but up there upon the mountains of Larsèk."
"But I would prefer to remain in Soyàl," Vinella replied.
"That is your misfortune" the Gayòla said. "Soyàl is not your home, and you don't want to go back to Lars& and because you have no country, you have no strength. Therefore you will not succeed in freeing Gordo from the power of the witches."
Vinella became desperate on hearing these words, and she was silent. Then all at once she asked: "What must I do?"
"I know of only one advice for you" the Gayòla said. "Go up there to the Pala de Yàtscha. There a little water is running, and it is called "La Fontèna del Omblia (the fountain of oblivion). Whoever drinks from this fountain forgets all his past life, and begins again like a child. Come, I will bring you up there and down again, for if you drink of it you will forget the way. It might happen, too, that the Vivàne would appear, and they would be delighted to welcome you if you were just as they are."
The girl looked up at the mountains. The jagged peaks of the Larsèk stood out clear in the blue sky, animated in a wonderful way by the light of the morning sun. From up there a sound came, as if the Vivànes were singing their songs, but it was only the purling of the fountain of oblivion.
"Let us go" said Vinella.
The Gayòla flew before her from stone to stone and Vinella followed. They came to the high rocks, and then to a narrow cleft. Here the girl could not have walked, if there had not been small wooden steps at the most difficult places. The Gayòla said that these steps were used by the Vivànes but they had been built by the dwarfs of the Lausa-mountains, after having made a bet with the Vivànes and losing it. As a result they were obliged to build these steps. High up under a notch on the left a rock was towering, and, behind, in a narrow, cool cleft, a thin stream of water was trickling: this was the fountain of oblivion. Vinella drank from it, and then she looked around as if lost in dreams. But the faithful bird came fluttering near her with his wings and cried:
"Come, I will bring you home".
Vinella let it guide her. She looked astonished, but she was smiling and seemed to be in good humour. Thus they came back over the steps and the stones on to the path again. At last they reached the first house in Soyàl, and here the Gayòla vanished.
Vinella continued on her way, and she was very surprised when the different people she met called her by her name. She thought she was in a strange district. All at once her foster mother came along and said loudly:
"Oh, here you are, Vinella I We have looked everywhere f or you, and have been very worried about you."
They went into their house together. Vinella spoke quite rationally to everybody, but she recognised no one, neither her foster parents nor any of the neighbours. She was also obliged to learn again every work that she used to do, having lost all remembrance of people and events. The people thought this very strange, but what astonished them most was the fact, that from that time forward, Vinella remembered everything, and quickly got accustomedto her life again.
When going to Perra one day Gordo spoke to two women who had come down from Soyàl. From them he heard that Vinella had lost her wits, and this worried him greatly. On reaching home he spoke about it to his Anda, but she laughed and said quite easily:
"Don't be troubled about Vinella. Some days ago I spoke to her and I can tell you that she is better off than we are. She must have drunk from the fountain of oblivion. She is really to be envied, for she is beginning a new life, and is no longer troubled with any thought of you."
"What fountain is this?" Gordo asked.
"It lies up there among the rocks of Lars&, near the Pala de Yàtscha," the Anda answered, "but I heard the old people say that it is difficult to discover, and I can't understand how Vinella managed to go there."
Then they talked about other things, and the Anda said that it was really time for Gordo to go to the widow at Perra and court her seriously. She pressed him to do so again the next day, and seeing that Gordo had no great desire to go, she mixed a magic potion for him and sent him to bed. This potion. was to make him easy to persuade. Next morning she thought Gordo would surely be nice and obedient and would go to Perra, for it was a potion which made every man easily influenced by a woman for a whole fortnight.
It was almost dawn when Gordo passed through the yard to go to his bedroom. He noticed a strange woman, who looked like a pedlar, and she asked him to buy something from her. At the same time she showed him a little object which in the bad light he could not see very well. He took it, however, and giving some money to the woman, went into his chamber. There he saw to this astonishment that the object he had bought was a garland of dry brushwood, similar to his own one from the Tschampedie. He put it on the window sill and went to bed. In the middle of the night he awoke, in a feverish ague, so that his teeth were chattering. Moonlight flooded the room, and outside a "Tsipàl" (wood owl) was crying. Gordo tried to deafen his ears against this call, and did his best to sleep again, but he did not succeed, because he was feeling miserably cold. Suddenly he heard a weird noise at the window. Frightened, he got up and he saw the woodowl sitting outside, rubbing its beak against a little bar of the iron lattice. This is a "Jranumina" (a ghostly sign), thought Gordo, and he became terrified. Then the garland of brush wood, which was lying upon the sill, began to move, running to and fro as if it were a centipede. Gordo became still more afraid, and did not dare to look at it any more. In a waking dream he could see the witches upon the Tschampedie, felt himself shut up in the tree, and finally was going with Vinella across a meadow. Vinella, however, had the golden garland upon her head, and was smiling happily. Then he felt better again, the fever was gone and the dawn came. Gordo got up and hurried out into the air. He wandered aimlessly around, came to the Soyàl brook, and went uphill again through the forest. In the morning silence he heard the bells of the animals tinkling on the pasture. It was early summer, and the cattle were still near the villages.
On coming to a meadow, Gordo saw Vinella watching sheep and she was looking splendidly, better than ever she did before. Gordo passed by and saluted her. She thanked him, but he saw at once that she had not recognised him. Then he sat in the forest, close to the meadow where Vinella was tending her sheep, and he kept looking at her all day. In the evening he went on the mountain paths to Mazzin, to one of his friends, for he did not want to return to his Anda. And on the following morning he was again in the forest over the Soyàl brook, and he could not turn his eyes from Vinella till the sun had set. And thus it went on. Sometimes he thought he ought to look for work, but his head was heavy, and he could not make up his mind about anything. The Anda has made me ill, he thought, I know when it was the evening she gave me that wretched "Dòrmia" (sleeping draught), so that she might carry out her own designs, or get others to do so.
Vinella had noticed the young man who passed by every morning, and saluted her. A nice man, she thought, but why should he always look so troubled ?
But a day came on which they started a long conversation and when Gordo said he felt burdened with crime, Vinella tried to console him; but when he said he had hurt her and wanted to ask her pardon, Vinella smiled as incredulously and as happily as he had seen her in his dreams. In future he never concealed himself at the forest's edge, but remained on the meadow, and when he realised that Vinella remembered nothing about past times he, too, became more and more happy. At last they both thought that things could not be better, or more beautiful, than they were at present, and they were very glad to have met one another. They then began to talk about getting married, and on the twelfth evening Gordo accompanied the girl to her home in order to come to an understanding with her fosterparents. But here he was badly received. They called him a scoundrel who had already once tormented and cheated the girl, and they hunted him out of doors. The neighbours also came running along and threatened to stone him if he did not leave the place at once.
Gordo fled out towards the Vajolett-valley, and remained over-night in a hay shed.
The next morning Gordo was going, as usual, to the meadow where Vinella watched the sheep. But Vinella met him on the way, saying:
"Oh, Gordo, how glad I am to have met you I You must not go on there, for some men from Soyàl are angry with you, and they are watching for you. They say you are a sorcerer who wants to fool the girls from Soyàl. They say you gave me an enchanted garland which at one time became brush wood, and another time gold, but I know nothing about it."
While she was saying this she took his hand, and led him back to the forest on the Larsèk brook. There they sat down and Gordo said:
"They are all angry with me, and you are not, although you have the most reason to be so."
"I know of no such reason" Vinella answered, "it is true that the neighbours in Soyàl once tried to tell me something like that, but I would not listen."
"Yes, you are a good girl," replied Gordo, "and then you have also drunk from the fountain of oblivion.''
Vinella was amused at this. "They all tell me that," she exclaimed, "and now you come along with the same story. But, you know, if that be so, then I wish you would drink from the fountain too; then, perhaps, you would not be so thoughtful and sad."
"You are right," said Gordo, "if I could forget everything, and begin a new life with you, that would be wonderful !"
"If only I knew where the fountain is I would bring you there," Vinella replied, "but unfortunately I have no idea and nobody else knows it either."
"And yet," Gordo went on, "now I remember having heard my Anda say that this fountain was near the Pala de Yàtscha.
"That should be up there," said Vinella, jokingly, "let us go to look for it."
And they went. Soon they came to the rocks, and, in climbing around them they suddenly saw the narrow cleft with the little steps. So they mounted higher and higher, going around the projecting tower, and reached the cleft where the fountain of oblivion was running.
"This must be the miraculous fountain," said Vinella, and laughingly she scooped out some water in her hands, and drank it. Gordo followed her example, and as soon as they both had drunk from the enchanted fountain, they completely lost the remembrance of their past lives. Joking with each other, they went still higher up, passing the notch, and entering the high valley of Lars&. There flowers were everywhere, and as it was. noon, a great silence reigned, and peace and warmth were in the air. Gordo and Vinella did not think of going home, they wandered, hand in hand, over rocks and lawns, unconscious of time, and they began their lives again. In the early summer sun they stood there, seeing nothing but the blue sky above the mountains, and with happiness in their hearts.
While wandering around thus in sunshine and stillness, they met some women, wearing long palegreen garments: they were Vivàne. They approached and looked at the couple in astonishment, and whispered to each other. All at once one of them cried out aloud:
"But is not this Vinella, the daughter of our poor Dorèda, who was carried off by an evil waterspirit? !"
They all hurried up and surrounded the girl, caressing her and using all sorts of endearing words.
"Dear child," they said, "at last you are with us; we always knew you would return, but we have had to wait a long time."
They could not look long enough at the girl, and their joy at seeing her again was immense. Then they wanted to know of her experiences amongst men, but as Vinella looked about her in an embarrassed manner, not knowing what to say, the Vivàne understood at once.
"She has drunk from the fountain of oblivion," one of them remarked. "Dear child, now you really belong to us completely, and you will never have to return again to men."
"And who is this ?", another one asked, looking at Gordo.
"He is my fiancé," answered Vinella.
"Then he will also stay with us," cried the Vivàne. And they shook Gordo's hand in a most cordial way.
"But now, come along to our home," they continued, and they put them both in their midst and guided them up to the clefts called "Skalirék". For there the Vivàne dwell.
Some time later Gordo's Anda came to Soyàl to Vinella's foster parents, to find out where Gordo was, but they did not know. She took from a basket the garland which Gordo had left in his chamber, saying:
"This garland is supposed to belong to your daughter; every night it creeps around my house like a spider that cannot rest. Keep it, I don't like it."
Then she went away.
At first the two old people wanted to throw the garland into the fire, but then they changed their minds, for the garland was the only article they had that belonged to their foster daughter, and they kept it And when it was autumn the two old people were coming back from the mountain one evening with wood and they saw on the edge of the forest a Vivàne, who said to them:
"Vinella sends you her greetings, and wishes to thank you for all you have done for her. But she can't come back any more. Put the garland which you still have upon the table tonight, and it will become gold, gold which endures, and you will have no more troubles."
And so it happened.
But Gordo and Vinella remained on the mountains of Lars&. Occasionally they were seen by a chamois hunter, sitting on the sunny south wall and looking down at the valley, but no other news of them was ever heard by men.
This is the story of the fountain of oblivion.