I.
IN the narrow deep valley along which runs the turbulent stream of Cadagüa 1 to empty itself into the sea which extends its arms as though to receive it, there is a high, noble bridge. The bridge of Castrejana, for such is it called, was constructed by Mestre Pedro Ortiz de Lequetio, and was commenced on the 9th of June, 1435, and concluded on the 4th of May, 1436. We learn this important fact from some curious historical notes which were found about the year 1730 among the papers of an Augustinian monk of Bilbao; nevertheless the people maintain that the said Mestre did no more than appropriate to himself a work which had cost the evil one many labours, as it was this dire enemy (that never beholds the countenance of God) who was the real constructor of the bridge of Castrejana.

We shall relate this curious story just as it was told to us by the dwellers of Irauregui and Zubileta, who affirm that ever since Mestre Pedro Ortiz de Lequetio usurped from the devil the glory of having constructed the bridge of Castrejana, the evil one had been so furious with the plagiarists that, whenever he can catch them in a lonely spot, he subjects them to great barbarities.

About the year 1485 there existed on the right margin of Cadagüa a humble dwelling-house, surrounded by a splendid market-garden, and protected by a circle of fine fruit-trees; while behind the house there was an apple orchard, which stretched along the base of Pagazarri. In the house of Castrejana, for such was the dwelling called, there resided a poor widow, and her daughter Catharina, who was about eighteen years of age. Catharina was the pride and charm of the valley, and from Burceña down to Alonsótegui there was no one but loved her for her goodness and admired her for her beauty. Her mother was advanced in years, and little able to attend to household duties; but the industrious daughter perfectly supplied the deficiency of hands in cultivating the market-garden, the care of the orchard, and tending to the herds. Moreover she conducted the sales, in the markets of Bilbao, of the fruit, milk, and vegetables, which formed the principal resources for the support. of the humble dwellers of Castrejana. Catharina was always at work and always cheerful. She would go singing to draw water from the fountain close to the chestnut wood on the river side, and with a song on her lips she would return. To the market of Bilbao she proceeded, singing all the way, and also returned singing until she passed the chestnut plantation of Altamira, when she always hushed her song for a few moments. Singing she worked in the garden, and gathered the fruit from the trees, or led the cattle to drink on the banks of Pagazarri.

On the other side of the river stood the house of Iturrioz, whose lands extended to close upon the fountain of the chestnut wood, from which no doubt it derived the name of Fonte fria--the cold fountain. Whenever Catharina went to the fountain to draw water, the lads of Iturrioz, who worked on his estate, used to start a lively chat with her, and Martino, the oldest of the lads, hastened down to the valley to offer her the best fruit of the trees on the estate.

Martino and Catharina had loved one another almost from childhood, and their parents had arranged a marriage between them which would be celebrated when the sowing of the maize, which takes place in May, should be ended, as Martino wished to help his father and brothers before leaving them to reside on the lands of Castrejana.

II.
On a dark stormy night a man knocked at the door of the widow's house, and Catharina, taking a candle, opened the wicket window of the door and asked the stranger what he wanted.

"I have come from Bilbao, and am going towards Galdemes," replied the traveller, who by the candlelight appeared to be a youth dressed in a black suit. "The river is no doubt swollen, and the night is too stormy to be able to cross in safety the high rocky mountains through which I have to journey. Give me shelter for this night, and by daybreak I shall proceed on my journey safely."

Catharina consulted with her mother, and, with her advice, she opened the door to admit the stranger. He was a young man with a handsome face and a very sweet voice, yet there was something in his voice and in his countenance which destroyed all the charm; and his bright eyes, his constant smile, and his measured, low tones and melodious accentuation rather annoyed than pleased. While the widow conversed with the traveller, the daughter was busy preparing the supper.

When the stranger finished his supper, the old woman said to him, "We have not yet said our night prayers, and if you are willing we shall be happy if you join us."

The youth made a sign of displeasure, and replied that he was very tired, and as he had to be up very early he would prefer to retire.

The widow lit a candle and led the way to a chamber, where they hastily made up a bed for him, and arranged the room as well as they could in their humble way. The window of this chamber was open, and through it came the perfume of the flowers in the garden after the rain, and more particularly was the scent perceived, above all the other flowers, of a fine plant of white lilies which grew just beneath the window, and the long stem of blossom almost reached the window-sill.

"What a rich perfume that white lily is shedding!" said the mother of Catharina, as she approached the window.

"What lily is it?" asked the traveller, with a sneer on his lips.

"One which my Catharina cultivates every spring to place on the lady altar of Begoña." 2

The stranger made a rude gesture, and the old woman, perceiving that he was in no humour for talking, bade him good-night and retired.

The chamber occupied by mother and daughter had a window which also looked out on the garden, and was on the same side of the house as the room occupied by the stranger. Before closing the window Catharina put out her head to breathe the night breeze laden with the scent of flowers, and great was her dismay and surprise to see that the stranger was drawing out his right hand in which he held a hook with which he was endeavouring to reach the lily, no doubt to break the stem.

"Oh! what is he going to do?" asked Catharina, in alarm. "That man must be the evil one!"

The hand armed with the hook instantly was withdrawn. The mother then related to her daughter how displeased the stranger had manifested himself when he knew that the lily was destined to deck the Virgin's altar; and Catharina, fearing lest she should find her beautiful lily destroyed, which she had tended and watched over with such loving care, were she to leave it on the plant until the morning, quietly went down to the garden and cut the lily stem from the plant and brought it up to her room with the greatest care lest it. should become broken.


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From LEGENDS and POPULAR TALES of the BASQUE PEOPLE by Mariana Monteiro
ISBN: 978-1-907256-32-5
URL: http://www.AbelaPublishing.com/Basque... Legends and Popular Tales of the Basque People by Mariana Monteiro
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Published on March 02, 2012 23:18 • 51 views • Tags: basque, bridge, castrejana, catharina, devil, devil’s-bridge, folk-tales, folklore, irauregui, legends, lilies, martino, myths, popular, spain, tales, zubileta

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