IV. Apples, Horns and a Hermit

Now let us return to Andolosia, sitting up the tree, and having just seen Agrippina disappear with the Purse, the Hat and the jewels he had gathered in three great and mighty cities. As you may imagine, he was shocked beyond measure. Climbing slowly back down, he looked at the tree, and he said: “Cursed be the tree, the fruit it bears, the man who planted it, and the hour in which I came here.”

Then he looked all around, but he did not know where he was, or which direction would lead him to human society; and so he began to swear and imprecate: “Cursed be the hour of my birth, and every day and hour of my life. Oh, grim Death, why did you not throttle me before I fell into this desperate plight? Cursed be the day and the hour when I first set eyes on Agrippina! Oh, Almighty God, how wondrous are Thy works; how can it be that nature has the power to conceal so false and faithless a heart beneath such a beautiful exterior? If I had seen into that false heart when I stared at that perfect countenance, I would have avoided this misery.”

And he wandered hither and thither, grumbling and muttering: “I wish to God my brother was with me in this wilderness; I would choke the life from him then hang myself from a tree with my belt. With our deaths, the Purse would lose its power, and that old fiend the Queen and falseheart Agrippina would no longer have their pleasure of it.”

And as Andolosia strayed, now here, now there, night came and darkness fell; unable to see anything, he laid himself down beneath a tree and rested awhile. However, he could not sleep for fear; there seemed no other prospect than death in the desert and dying without extreme unction. There were no paths around, no trace of anyone having trod this ground for years; and he lay as one in despair, almost desiring death.

When day broke, Andolosia arose and, of necessity, continued to wander. But there was still no sight or sound of anyone as he came to a tree with unusually shiny red apples. Now he was sorely and grievously hungry, so he threw a stone at the tree, knocking two large apples to the ground. He resumed his journey, eating as he walked; and once he had eaten both, two long horns, like a goat’s, grew on his head. When he felt the horns, and saw them on his shadow, he lowered his head and charged the tree, thinking to butt them off. But it was all to no avail; so he ran around under the horns, crying: “Poor, miserable man, poor, unhappy wretch that I am! How can it be that Earth holds so many people, yet there is not a single soul here to point me back to civilisation?” And he yelled out: “Oh Almighty God! Oh Queen of Heaven, Virgin Mary! Come to my aid in my hour of direst need!”

The most memorable woodcut in the book

His pitiable laments were heard by a wood-brother, a hermit, who had been living in the wilderness for thirty years without clapping eyes on another human being. Walking towards the sound, he came upon Andolosia, and said: “Oh, you poor man, who brought you here? Or what do you seek in this wilderness?”

Andolosia replied, “Dear Brother, I’m sorry I ever came here, for things have gone hard with me.”

And he was about to begin his story, but the hermit had no ears for it: “I’ve neither seen nor heard a human being in thirty years, and I dearly wish you had not come here.”

“Dear Brother, I am ravenous – have you anything to eat?”

The wood-brother took him to his hermitage, where there was neither bread nor wine, and nothing but fruit and water, on which he subsisted. But seeing see that this fare was not for Andolosia, he told his guest: “I shall direct you to where you can find sufficient food and drink.”

“Dear Brother, what can I do about these horns? People will regard me as a sea-monster.”

The hermit led him down a narrow path.

“Dear son,” he said, breaking two apples off a tree, “take these and eat them.”

No sooner had Andolosia eaten the apples than his horns completely disappeared; and he asked how it was possible that he could grow horns, then lose them, in the twinkling of an eye.

The hermit said: “The Creator, who fashioned Heaven and Earth and all that they contain, also conceived and created these trees and endowed them with the gift of bringing forth such fruit. Their like is not to be found on the face of this Earth, other than in this wilderness.”

“Dear Brother, allow me to pick a few of these apples and take them with me.”

“Dear son, take what you will. Do not ask me; they are not mine. I own nothing but a poor soul; and if I can return it to the Creator who gave me it, my struggles in this world will have been worthwhile. It is written on your face that your mind is enveloped in temporal affairs and heavily laden with the burden of transitory concerns. Fling them out and turn to God; or you will suffer a great loss for the sake of a little pleasure in this short, ephemeral life.”

Andolosia did not at all take these words to his heart, but thinking only of the great loss he had incurred, he picked some of the apples which made the horns grow and some of those which made them disappear. Then he asked the hermit for the sake of God to show him the road to food, for in two days he had eaten nothing but four apples, “and if I found some more apples, or any other fruit, in this wilderness, I would not dare bite into them.”

The hermit took him to a path and said: “Now go straight down this path, and you will come to a broad river, which is an arm of the Spanish Sea. If the river is in spate when you arrive there, wait; the tide will recede. As soon as this happens, cross and head for the high tower you will see before you, and waste no time in crossing; if the tide catches you, there will be no escape. When you come to the sea, a short distance away, you will find a good village with bread, meat and other foods for the body.”

Thanking the Brother deeply and heartily, Andolosia took his leave and did as instructed. He crossed the river unscathed, passed by the tower and arrived in the village, where he ate and drank and restored his body with strength; for he had been feeling weak and dulled. Now that he was himself once again, he asked for the shortest way to London, and he was told that it was a great distance away; as he was still in Hibernia, he would have to travel through Scotland to reach England, and London was a long way from the Scottish border. Andolosia was disgruntled at this, for he would not have imagined himself to be even ten miles away. He was also concerned about the apples he was carrying; if he were to be long on the road, they might get bruised or begin to go bad. When the villagers saw how anxious he was to reach London, they pointed him in the direction of a nearby port which traded with England, Flanders and Scotland, and where he would find a ship affording him passage.

Andolosia soon rose up and walked to this port, where he had the good fortune to find a ship from London. He hired a passage and enjoyed a smooth journey, arriving safe and sound in the great city. Once there, he limed one of his eyes and wore a wig, so that he was totally unrecognisable. Then he hired a bench and set himself up before the church that Agrippina frequented; and after laying the apples on a clean white cloth, he began to cry out: “Apples from Damascus!”

Whenever he was asked how much they cost, he replied,“Three crowns! Three crowns an apple!”, and they walked on. Of course, Andolosia would have been sorry if they had purchased any of the apples.

In time the Princess came along, with her maids, her servants, and her lady’s-maids. Again he cried, “Apples from Damascus!”

“How much for one?” asked the Princess.

“Three crowns.”

“What is so special about them that you sell at so high a price?”

“They give a person beauty and sharp understanding.”

When the Princess heard this, she ordered her lady’s-maids to buy two. The purchase completed, Andolosia cleared away his wares, not wishing to sell to anyone else. Agrippina returned home, and it was not long before she ate both apples; and as soon as she had eaten them, two large horns grew on her head with a severe pain that made her retire to her bed.

When the horns had shot up to their full height, and her headache had eased, she rose up and walked towards her mirror; and on seeing the two tall and hideous horns on her head, she fell on them with her hands, thinking to tear them off – but they would not move. Then she screamed for two of her maids; and when they saw the Princess, they started back and made many crosses in the air before her, as if she were the Prince of Darkness. Agrippina was speechless with shock.

“Oh Your Majesty, what has happened?” they asked. “How has your noble person come to be marked by such a deformity?”

She replied that she did not know. “I hold it to be a plague from God, or it was caused by the apples from Damascus the untrue grocer was selling. Help me try to remove them.”

The maids pulled with all their might, but the horns would not move. So they brought a rope, tied it to the horns, threw it over a beam and pulled down to raise her into the air. Then they swung from her ankles, hoping to rip the horns off her head. Agrippina suffered this with great patience, but when she realised how firmly set the horns were, and that all their efforts were unavailing, she grew progressively desperate:

“Oh, miserable creature that I am! What use is my being a King’s daughter now? What good is it that I am the richest woman on Earth and have the Prize of Beauty over my sex? Now I resemble a senseless beast! Why was I ever born? If no one can help me remove these monstrosities, I’ll drown myself in the Thames” (that is a large and busy river which flows past the Palace), “for I cannot be seen.”

One of her senior lady’s-maids began to comfort her: “Princess, you should not despair. If those horns can appear just like that, then you may rely on their disappearing just as suddenly. You should make your devotions to our dear lady Westminster, worker of wondrous miracles, and to St. Thomas at Canterbury, sending offerings that they may intercede with God to restore you to your natural state. Additionally, there are many skilled and highly-learned doctors in London; it is most probable that they will know, or can find in their books, what causes these growths and how they can be expelled.”

Agrippina was pleased with this advice and said: “Tell no one about this; and if anyone asks for me, say I am indisposed and will admit no one.”

Then she had expensive golden offerings prepared and sent away, and her old lady’s-maid asked the doctors if there were any means to drive away the two horns a relative had grown? The doctors were astounded at this, and every one of them eagerly desired to see the invalid.

“You can’t see this person unless you know how to help them. And anyone who can do this will be amply rewarded,” said the lady’s-maid.

Not one of them had the courage to venture a remedy, for they had never heard or read of this affliction, nor seen such a phenomenon. So they all refused their services, and the lady’s-maid, disgruntled and despairing of a doctor, prepared to return to the Court with less favourable news than she had hoped to bear.

In the meantime, Andolosia had disguised himself as a doctor, with a tall red cap and a scarlet robe; he had also assumed a huge nose and applied some face-paint. He came up to her and said:

“Dear attendant, I notice that you have entered the houses of three doctors: have they given you the advice you were seeking? Do not be angry at my asking; I too am a doctor of medicine. If you have a pressing concern, you may reveal it to me; it would have to be an exceptionally strange or severe ailment for me not to know how, with the help of God, to drive it away and return the patient to health.”

The lady’s-maid thought that the doctor had been sent her by God, and she told him how a person of note had incurred a peculiar affliction: two long horns, like a goat’s, had shot up on their head, causing concern beyond the expression of words.

“If you can help, you will be well rewarded, for they have no shortage of money and goods.”

Dr. Andolosia laughed warmly and said: “This illness is known to me, and I know the art of making the horns disappear painlessly. But it will cost a hefty sum, for the ingredients are extremely expensive. I also know the reason why such horns as you describe spring up.”

“Dear doctor, what does cause such monstrous growths?”

And the doctor with the large nose replied: “They are caused by one person committing an act of gross disloyalty to another person and taking great delight in their wickedness. Because they do not dare display this delight in public, it must break out somehow; and that man can count himself lucky when it pushes forth on top – for if it pressed out anywhere else, he would die. Many people have died with no visible sign of illness, and no one knew the cause of death; until the body was cut open and horns were discovered inside which, not having been able to find the proper exit, fatally transfixed the heart or another organ. It is not yet two years since I was at the King of Spain’s Court, where a powerful Count had a beautiful daughter with a graceful physique, who had grown two tall horns; I removed all trace of them, when all the other doctors had given up in despair.”

The lady’s-maid asked where his house was; she would soon come to visit him.

“I have no house as of yet; I arrived here only three days ago. I am lodging at The Swan, you may inquire after me there. I am known as The Doctor with the Big Nose.”

The lady’s-maid hastened back with unspeakable delight to the despondent Agrippina and said: “Gracious Princess, be of good cheer, for help is at hand.” She recounted how three doctors had left her without comfort, and how she had then found one who promised deliverance; and she told her about the Doctor with the Big Nose, who knew how to cure her as he had cured a Countess: “He also gave me the reason why such horns sprout up, and I can well believe it.”

The sad princess lay on her bed, downcast and so fiercely ashamed that she would not look at herself, nor allow her maids to see her. And she said to the lady’s-maid:

“Why didn’t you bring the doctor with you, when you know how badly I want to be freed from these horns? Go this instant and fetch him, and tell him to bring what he needs and spare no expense. Take him a hundred crowns, and if he requires more, then give him as much as he wishes.”

The lady’s-maid changed her clothes to avoid recognition and made her way to The Swan, where she found the doctor. Giving him the hundred crowns, she said: “Now be diligent. You must come to the person I’m going to take you to only at night, and you must not mention this to anyone; their own mother and father know nothing about this affair.”

“Rest assured that the secret will not pass my lips; and I shall accompany you,” said the Doctor. “But first I must go to the apothecary’s and buy the necessary ingredients. You may either wait here or come back after two hours.”

She said she would wait, for she did not dare return without him.

And The Doctor with the Big, Monstrous Nose went to an apothecary’s and bought a little rhubarb, which he used, with sugar, to coat half an apple. After adding many appetising delicacies, he bought a small tin of fragrant ointment and some musk. Then he returned to The Swan, and the lady’s-maid led him under cover of night to the Princess, who was lying behind the bed-curtains. She received him with the faintest of voices, as though she were terribly weak.

The Doctor with the Big Nose

“Good day to you, dear lady,” said the doctor. “With the help of God and my art, all will soon go well with you. Now sit up straight and let me grasp and examine your affliction; this will help me to help you.”

Agrippina flushed with shame at being seen with the horns; but she sat up on the bed. The doctor took a firm grip of the outgrowths and pronounced:

“We need a pelt-bag made of monkey-skin for each horn, and the skin must be warm, for I am going to salve the horns.”

The lady’s-maid gave the order for an old Court ape to be killed and flayed. The skin was brought and two bags made from it after the doctor’s instructions; then he salved the horns with monkey-lard – a special remedy for such afflictions. After he had salved her, he pulled a pelt-bag over each horn and said:

“Gracious Lady, what I have just done to the horns will soften them, so that they can be removed by bowel movements. To that end I have brought you a sweetmeat: eat it, then have a short nap; and when you wake up, you will perceive the improvement in your condition.”

Agrippina behaved as a patient bent on a return to health: when the doctor gave her half an apple (one of those which made the horns disappear), she ate it and fell asleep. Then the rhubarb began to work its effect in her body and drive her to the privy. When she had returned to her bed, the doctor declared:

“Now let us see if the medication has worked any good.”

And he lifted the pelt-bags up from the top: the horns had shrunk by a quarter. Agrippina was so bitter an enemy to the horns that she would not touch them; but on being told that they were disappearing, she reached up and discovered that they had indeed become smaller and shorter. Delighted, she requested that the doctor keep doing his utmost to complete the cure.

He said, “I shall return tomorrow night and bring what is required,” and went to the apothecary’s again. Then he had coated half an apple, but with a different flavour from the previous time. At night he was conducted to the Princess’s chamber, and he feigned ignorance of his surroundings. Andolosia did as he had done on the previous night, but had the bags made smaller to fit the horns; and after he had given Agrippina the sweetmeat, and she had slept and then dropped her stool, they found that the horns had shrunk to half their original size. Her previous delight was as nothing to what she felt now; and she asked the doctor not to slacken his efforts, but to expedite the cure – his pains would be well rewarded. He promised to do his best.

The third night was a repetition of the two preceding. As Andolosia sat by Agrippina, he thought: ‘I wonder what reward she intends to give me? Even if she hands over two or three thousand Crowns – a handsome remuneration for any doctor of medicine – the amount is trifling when set against what she stole from me. Before I remove the horns entirely, I’ll talk with her and tell her my mind. If she refuses to do my will, I’ll make her a sweetmeat to return the horns to full size. Then I’ll travel to Flanders and send her the message that, if she wants them removed, she must come to me and bring what I demand. When she wakes up I’ll say to her: Dear lady, you can plainly see how your condition is improving. But the hardest and most demanding part of the cure is the removal of the base of the horns from the brain-pan; it requires various refined and special ingredients, which cost a great deal. If the expense should occasion reluctance on your part, I shall have to leave things as they stand. Perhaps you are thinking of sending me away with a paltry fee because I am but a doctor of medicine; now you must know that I am also a Doctor of the Black Arts, and I have invoked the Evil Spirit to advise me what reward I should demand. He told me that you have two magical possessions – a Purse and a Hat – and I am to request one of these; and he pronounced that you would give me the Hat. In addition, you should provide me, every year, with enough money to live like a lord’.

While he was formulating this resolve, the lady’s-maid appeared with a light to see how the Princess was; she was still asleep. The doctor’s cap had slipped from his grasp when he took it off, and now, as he bent forward to pick it up, he saw the Wishing-Hat lying under the bed, at the front. No one had paid it any attention, for they did not know its power; nor did the Princess know that it was this Hat which had brought her home from the wilderness. If she had known this, there is little doubt that she would have hung it on a different nail!

The second abduction

The doctor sent the lady’s-maid away to fetch a tin of medicine; and when she was gone, he hurriedly and jubilantly snatched up the Hat and hid it under his robe. ‘If I could only make the Purse mine as well’, he thought. Then the Princess awoke and dressed herself. When the doctor pulled the pelt bags off, the horns were no more than stumps, to Agrippina’s great joy. The lady’s-maid whispered to her: “One more night and you’ll be back to your old self. Then we’ll be spared the sight of the ugly doctor with the monstrous nose – he could put you off men for good.”

Now that Andolosia had the Hat, he abandoned his intention of describing himself as a double Doctor. “Dear lady,” he began, “you can clearly see how effectively my remedies are working. But the most demanding stage of the treatment is the expulsion of the horns from the brain-pan, which requires rare ingredients, and if I cannot find them here, I shall have to travel for them, or send another doctor – whom I would instruct in the matter – to fetch them. The expenditure will be great. So I would like to know what reward you will give me when the horns are completely removed and your head is as smooth as ever.”

The Princess remarked, “I have found your art to be skilled and efficient, and I request that you help me and spare no money.”

“You say I should not be sparing with money,” replied the doctor, “but I must be, for I do not have any.”

Although she possessed the inexhaustible Purse, Agrippina was shy of spending money. She walked leisurely over to the chest beside her bed, wherein was contained her most precious belongings, including the Purse, which was fitted with a strong strap; and taking it out, she tied it around her waist, walked to a table in front of a scenic window. and began to count. When she had told three hundred Crowns, the doctor put his hands inside his robe, as if reaching for a purse to hold his fee; and shaping as if to take the money, he threw his cap off, donned the Hat, grabbed the Princess and wished himself in a wild, uninhabited wood. His wish was instantly fulfilled, and the old lady’s-maid ran to the Queen to tell her that Agrippina had been abducted once again. She related the history of the horns and the doctor. The Queen, her mother, was startled, but thought: ‘As she came back soon the last time, so may she make a speedy return again. Besides, she has the Purse with her, so she can pay people to help her home’.

Through the air to Hibernia

CHAPTER 5, Sister Agrippina

Back to CHAPTER 3, Hatless in Hibernia

Back to List of Chapters

Back to Translations