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  • The Witch of the Porta alla Croce
    Page 1

    "If any secret should sacred be,
    Though it guarded the life of a family,
    And any woman be there about,
    She will die but what she will find it out;
    And though it hurried her soul to well
    That secret she must immediately tell."
    --Sage Stuffing for Young Ducks.

    THERE are in Italy, as elsewhere, families to whom a fatality or tradition is attached. The following is a curious legend of the kind :


    "There was a very old Florentine family which lived in a castle in the country. The elder or head of this family had always one room in which no one was ever allowed to enter. There he passed hours alone every day, and woe to any one who dared disturb him while there. And this had been the case for generations, and no one had ever found out what the secret was. This was, of course, a great vexation to the ladies of the family--perche la donna e sempre churiosa--women being always inquisitive.

    "And most inquisitive of all was a niece of the old man, who had got it into her head that the secret was simply a great treasure which she might obtain. Therefore she resolved to consult with a certain witch, who would tell her what it was, and how she could enter the mysterious room. This sorceress lived hard by the Porta alla Croce, for there are always many witches in that quarter.

    "The witch, who was a very large tall woman, made the niece go with her to an isolated small house, and thence along a path, the lady in advance. While so doing, the latter turned her head to look behind her, and at that instant heard the cry of a civetta or small owl. The witch exclaimed, 'My dear lady, what you wish for will hardly be granted ; I fear there is a great disaster awaiting you.'

    Page 2 >

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    Leland, Charles Godfrey. Legends of Florence: Collected from the People And Re-told. New York: Macmillan and Co., 1895. 114-117


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