THE NETTLE SPINNER
O NCE upon a time there lived at Quesnoy, in Flanders, a great lord whose name was Burchard, but whom the country people called Burchard the Wolf. Now Burchard had such a wicked, cruel heart, that it was whispered how he used to harness his peasants to the plough, and force them by blows from his whip to till his land with naked feet.
His wife, on the other hand, was always tender and pitiful to the poor and miserable.
Every time that she heard of another misdeed of her husband's she secretly went to repair the evil, which caused her name to be blessed throughout the whole country-side. This Countess was adored as much as the Count was hated.
One day when he was out hunting the Count passed through a forest, and at the door of a lonely cottage he saw a beautiful girl spinning hemp.
' What is your name ? ' he asked her.
' Renelde, my lord.'
' You must get tired of staying in such a lonely place ? '
' I am accustomed to it, my lord, and I never get tired of it.'
' That may be so ; but come to the castle, and I will make you lady's maid to the Countess.'
' I cannot do that, my lord. I have to look after my grandmother, who is very helpless.'
' Come to the castle, I tell you. I shall expect you this evening,' and he went on his way.
But Eenelde, who was betrothed to a young wood-cutter called Guilbert, had no intention of obeying the Count, and she had, besides, to take care of her grandmother.