The Speckled Egg

I am the speckled egg,
the nest in the breeze,
your feet on the ground,
and the hole in your sleeve.
– Anonymous

Once there was a house set upon the edge of a dark forest. The man of the house was a widower. He had two children, Marta, and Rico, who so loved one another that whenever they were apart they could only be sad.

One day, their father told the house cook and laborer of pressing business he had abroad. He said he must pass through the forest, but promised his return before rise of the next full moon. The full moon rose. Days and nights passed. The moon waned again to a sliver. And still Marta and Rico’s father did not return. But all was not sadness in the house. To the laborer, the cook served up a cup of cheer in the kitchen. She touched her cup to his and toasted. It did not bode well for the master of the house. He must surely be dead in the forest, killed by bandits, the cook said. She hinted the house was as good as theirs now if they could only get rid of the children.

“Tomorrow,” said she, “We will put a large pot on to boil for Rico. And where he goes Marta will soon follow.”

The children were fond of hiding games. Overhearing the cook and laborer’s wicked plans from behind the pantry door, their mouths fell open. They slipped silently away. Marta whispered, “But Rico, instead of this, tomorrow we will rise earlier than our misfortune. You and I will dress to go far away.”

The next day the children did as they planned. In the kitchen when the kettle began to boil, the cook announced it was time to fetch sleepy Rico. Entering their room, the laborer saw both children were gone. The cook ordered him to go find them immediately. But on the edge of the dark forest, the children saw him coming from afar.

Marta said to Rico, “Say quick, we belong together.”

“Forever and ever more,” said Rico.

“Then, in this tree you must become a nest — and look I will be the egg.”

When the laborer came to the forest he found nothing there of interest but a swaying nest with one lovely egg. “There is nothing to do here,” he said and went back to tell the cook.

The cook scolded him. “You simpleton you should have torn the nest down, taken the egg and brought it back. Go and do it at once.”

The man went out a second time but again the children saw him coming.

“Rico say quick, we belong together,” said Marta.

“Forever and ever more,” said Rico.

“Then, you must become a church — and look I will be the candle.”

So, when the laborer came he found nothing but a church with one bright candle flickering upon the altar. He said, “What can I do here? Let us go.”

Upon returning to the house, he explained all he had found.

“You fool! Why did you not pull the church to pieces and bring the candle home with you?”

Now, the cook got herself up and went out in pursuit of the children. But Marta and Rico saw her coming with the laborer in tow.

“Rico say quick, we belong together,” said Marta.

“Forever and ever more,” said her brother.

“Then be a fishpond for me — and look I will be what I must.”

The two wicked servants came up then. When the cook saw the pond full of golden fish she suspected some ruse. One especially beautiful carp swam close to the surface — almost close enough for her to grab. She ordered the laborer to help steady her balance. All of a sudden a white goose came up from behind and bit the laborer’s legs, honking and beating its wings upon him wildly.

The man could not take it and let go, wherein the cook fell head first into the water. He took to his heels into the dark forest while the cook splashed away. Neither of them were ever to be seen again.

Rico and Marta went home. There they found their father returned from his travels and weeping at the table. He cried bitterly in his arms for the return of his lost children. With a shout, they were joyously reunited — and if they have not yet died happy, they are living still.

END

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