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Joliette, by Jeanne Marie Leprince de Beaumont

There was once a lord and a lady who had been married for several years, without having children: they believed that they lacked only that to be happy, for they were rich and esteemed by everybody. At length they had a daughter, and all the fairies who were in the country came to her baptism to give her gifts. One said she will be as beautiful as an angel; the other, that she will dance to delight; a third, that she will never be ill; a fourth, that she will have much wit. The mother was very happy with all the gifts given to her daughter: beautiful, spiritual, good health, talents. What better could be given to this child, who was called Joliette? They sat down to eat; but when they had half supped, the Joliette’s father was told that the queen of the fairies, who was passing by, wished to enter. All the fairies rose to meet their queen; But she had a face so severe that she made them all tremble.

“My sisters,” she said, when she was seated; is it this way you use the power you have received from heaven? Not one of you has thought of gifting Joliette with a good heart, with virtuous inclinations. I will endeavor to remedy the evil you have done to him; I swear to be dumb to the age of twenty; it was the God’s will that I have the power to deprive her of the use of the language.”

At the same time the fairy disappeared, leaving the father and mother of Joliette in the greatest despair in the world; for they conceived nothing more sad than to have a mute daughter. Joliette, however, became charming; she strove to speak when she was two years old, and they knew by her little gestures that she heard all that was said to her, and that she was dying to reply. She was given all sorts of masters, and she learned with astonishing promptitude: she was so witty that she made herself heard by gestures, and reported to her mother all that she saw or heard. At first they admired it, but the father, who was a man of good sense, said to his wife:

“My dear, you leave a bad habit in Joliette; she’s a little spy. What do we need to know all that is done in the city? We are not suspicious of her, because she is a child, and we know that she can not speak, and she makes you know all that she hears: she must be corrected for this defect, there is nothing more ugly than being a protractor.”

The mother, who idolized Joliette, and who was naturally curious, told her husband that he did not like this poor child, because she had the failing of being dumb; that she was already quite unhappy with her infirmity, and that she could not bring herself to make it even more miserable by contradicting her. The husband, who did not pay for these bad reasons, took Joliette in particular, and said to her:

“My dear child, you grieve me. The good fairy who made you mute, hadn’t probably foreseen that you would be a protractor; but what good is it that you can not speak, since you are heard by signs; do you know what will happen? you will make you hate everybody; you will flee as if you had the plague, and you will be right, for you will do more harm than this horrible disease. A protractor scrambles every one, and causes terrible evils: for me, if you do not correct yourself, I should wish with all my heart that you should be as well blind and deaf.”

Joliette was not wicked; it was by stupidity that she discovered what she had seen; thus she promised by signs that she would correct herself. She had the intention, but two or three days later she heard a lady laughing at one of her friends: she knew how to write, and she put on paper what she had heard. She had written this conversation with such wit, that her mother could not help laughing at what was pleasant, and admiring the style of her daughter. Joliette had vanity; she was so pleased with the praises her mother gave her, that she wrote all that was passing before her. What his father had predicted arrived; she made herself hated by all the world. They hid from her, they spoke low when she entered, and feared to be in the assemblies of which she was prayed. Unfortunately for her, her father died when she was only twelve years old; and no one making her any more ashamed of her fault, she took such a habit of reporting, that she even did so without thinking of it; she spent the whole day spying on servants who hated her like death: if she were in a garden, she pretended to sleep to hear the speeches of those who were walking. But as many spoke at once, and she did not have enough memory to retain what was said, she made one say what the others had said; she wrote the beginning of a discourse, without hearing its end or the end without knowing its beginning. There was not a week that there were twenty harassments or quarrels in the town, and when they came to examine where these noises came from, it was discovered that it came from the reports of Joliette. She confused her mother with all her friends, and she made to fight three or four persons.

This lasted until she was twenty; she waited that day with great impatience, to speak at her ease: it came at length, and the queen of the fairies, standing before her, said to her:

“Joliette, before you make use of the word, which you will certainly abuse, I will show you all the evils you have caused by your reports.” At the same time she presented her a mirror, and there she saw a man followed by three children, who asked for alms with their father. “I do not know this man,” said Joliette, who was speaking for the first time; “what harm have I done to him?”

“That man was a rich merchant,” replied the fairy; “he had plenty of goods in his shop, but he lacked cash. This man borrowed a sum from your father to pay a bill of exchange; you listened to the door of the cabinet, and you made known the situation of this merchant to several persons to whom he owed money; this caused him to lose his credit; every one wished to be paid, and justice having mingled with this affair, the poor man and his children have been reduced to alms for nine years.”

“Ah, my God, madame!” said Joliette, “I am in despair at having committed this crime; but I am rich, I want to repair the evil I have done, by restoring to this man the good I have made him lose by my imprudence.”

After this Joliette saw a beautiful woman in a room whose windows were lined with iron gratings; she was lying on straw, having a pitcher of water, and a piece of bread beside her; her big black hair fell on her shoulders, and her face was bathed in tears.

“Ah! my God!” said Joliette, “I know that lady; her husband took her to France for two years, and wrote that she was dead; would it be possible that I should be the cause of the awful situation of this lady?”

“Yes, Joliette,” replied the fairy; “but the most terrible thing is that you are still the cause of the death of a man whom the lady’s husband killed. Do you remember that one evening in a garden, on a bench, you pretended to sleep, to hear what these two people said; you understood by their speeches that they loved each other, and you made it known to the whole town. This sound came to the ears of the lady’s husband, who is a very jealous man; he killed this cavalier, and led this lady to France; he made her pass for dead, in order to torment her more; yet this poor lady was innocent. The gentleman spoke of the love he had for one of his cousins ​​whom he wished to marry; but as they spoke low, you only heard half the conversation you have written, and this caused these horrible misfortunes.”

“Ah!” cried Joliette, “I am an unhappy woman, I do not deserve to see the light of day.”

“Expect to condemn yourself, that you have known all your crimes,” said the fairy. “Look at this man lying in this dungeon, covered with chains; you have discovered a very innocent conversation which this man held, and as you had only listened to him half-heartedly, you thought he understood that he gave information to the enemies of the king. A young scoundrel, a very wicked man, a woman as babbling as you, who did not like this poor man who is a prisoner, have repeated and increased what you have made them hear of this man; they have him put into this dungeon, from which he will only go out to stun the reporter with blows of sticks, and treat you like the last of the women, if ever he meets you.”

After this the fairy showed to Joliette a number of servants on the pavement, and lacking bread, husbands separated from their wives; children disinherited by their fathers; and all this, because of her repports. Joliette was inconsolable, and promised to correct herself.

“You are too old to correct you,” said the fairy; “the defects which have been fed up to twenty years, are not corrected after that, when you want; I know only one remedy for this evil; it is to be blind, deaf and dumb for ten years, and spend all this time reflecting on the misfortunes you have caused.”

Joliette had not the courage to consent to a remedy which seemed so terrible to her; she promised, however, not to spare anything to become silent; but the fairy turned her back to her without wishing to listen to her; for she knew very well that if she had had a real desire to correct herself, she would have taken the means. The world is full of these kinds of people, who say: I am sorry to be greedy, anger, liar; I wish with all my heart to correct me. They are certainly lying, for if they are told: To correct your gluttony, you must never eat out of meals, and always remain on your appetite when you go out of the table. To cure you of your anger, you must impose good penance whenever you are carried away. If, I say, they are told to use these means, they answer that is too difficult. That is to say, they would want God to do a miracle to correct them all at once, without any difficulty.

That is exactly what Joliette thought; but with this false good will, nothing is corrected. As she was detested by all who knew her, in spite of her wit, beauty, and talents, she resolved to remain in another country. She therefore sold all her property, and went away with her foolish mother. They arrived in a large town, where they were at first charmed by Joliette. Several lords asked her in marriage, and she chose one whom she loved passionately. She lived a very happy year with him. As the town in which she lived was very large, one did not know so early she was a reporter, because she saw many people who did not know each other. One day, after supper, her husband spoke of several persons, and he came to say that such a lord was not a very honest man, because he had seen him doing several evil deeds. Two days later, Joliette being in a great masquerade, a man covered with a domino begged her to dance, and then came and sat down beside her. As she spoke well, he enjoyed a great deal of conversation, all the more because she knew all the scandalous stories of the city, and she told them with great wit. The wife of the lord, whose husband had spoken to her, came to dance; and Joliette said to this mask, which had a domino:

“This woman is very amiable; It is a pity that she is married to a dishonest man.”

“Do you know the husband of whom you speak so ill?” asked the mask.

“No,” replied Joliette, “but my husband, who knows him perfectly, has told me several ugly stories about him.”

And at once Joliette related these stories, which she increased according to the bad habit she had adopted, in order to have an opportunity of making her spirit shine. The mask listened very attentively, and she was very glad of the attention he gave her, because she thought he admired her. When she had finished, he got up, and a quarter of an hour later they told Joliette that her husband was dying because he had fought against a man to whom he had taken away his reputation. Joliette ran in tears to the place where her husband had only a quarter of an hour to live. “Get out, you wicked creature,” said the dying man. “It is your tongue and your repports that take away my life.”

And shortly afterwards he died. Joliette, who loved her madly, sawing him dead, threw herself furiously on his sword, and passed it through the body. Her mother, who saw this horrible spectacle, was so seized with it that she fell ill with grief, and died also, cursing the curiosity, and the silly complacency she had for her daughter, from which she had caused her loss.

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