The Countess of Gruyère was beautiful, kind and warm-hearted. One could have thought that she had everything one could possibly desire. Unfortunately, however, she was sad, devastated in fact, because she had no children and, more importantly, no heir.
Needless to say, an heir is essential to keep a philandering husband at home, everyone knows that ! All the ladies in the small city on the hill went about their occupations surrounded by their rosy-cheeked, healthy and unruly little brood of children but she went out alone, sad and mournful to cry and to pray in the various chapels of the area. She invoked the Almighty daily, she did so want a child.
During the same period, a well-known figure, John the Cripple, wandered throughout the district. No-one knew whence he came nor whither he was bound, but it was noted that he never passed a wayside church or chapel without entering to say a few prayers. He was penniless, he had to beg for his food but he was always cheerful, kind and very wise so his shoulder bag was never empty.
One cold, snowy Christmas Eve, when everyone was celebrating in the warmth of their homes and families, the Countess felt totally depressed. Searching desperately for comfort and help, she slipped into the little chapel dedicated to St. John and let her grief flow out. She sobbed and sobbed, heedless of any other presence in the chapel. John, the Cripple was there too, he was impressed by the abysmal despair of the unknown lady and went up to comfort her, offering a crust of bread, all he had. The Countess recognized him, she knew he was good and kind so she begged him to bless her and pray with her for the child she so desperately wanted.
The following autumn, there was double rejoicing for the harvest festival. Not only had it been a year of abundance but the Countess had given birth to a magnificent little boy. He was christened John and would be the next Count of Gruyère.
Thematic route :
A Country of Legends
Marie-Alexandre Bovet, from "les légendes de la Gruyère", Editions Gruériennes, 2004