There once was a young woman named Marlene and a young man named Bartholomew. Bartholomew was so handsome no maid could tear her eyes off him. Every maid in the village, from the fairest to the plainest, yearned to win his favor.
Marlene, too, was struck by his beauty and soon fell in love with him, as a love as deep as only a first love can be. This feeling was so overwhelming, Marlene realized she could never live without Bartholomew. Yet it was her misfortune that by then Bartholomew already had a wife and a young son.
Marlene refused to give in to this misfortune, however, and worked long and hard to convince Bartholomew that she was his one true love. In the end she succeeded, for women possess the gift of persuasion and many a man has succumbed to their entreaties.
Bartholomew's wife refused to accept his change of heart. But Marlene found a way to deal with that as well.
Marlene convinced Bartholomew he must get rid of his wife once and for all, and so he chopped off her head. Everything would have ended well, with the young lovers living happily ever after, had not the crime been witnessed by Bartholomew's five-year-old son. Marlene saw no other solution than to convince Bartholomew, by now her rightful husband, to dispose of the child like his mother and bury his body next to hers, so that they might be together for all eternity.
Yet this time Bartholomew put his foot down and refused to do what Marlene asked of him. "It is one thing to kill my wife, but to kill my child, the fruit of my loins?" he said. He only changed his mind when the lad began to speak, loudly and frequently, about what he had seen. And though Bartholomew could never raise his hand against his firstborn son, he found another way to deal with the problem. While the boy slept, he snuck into his room, lifted him up and set him in a coffin, which he then buried under the apple tree in their yard.
After that day, strange things began occurring in the area where the couple lived. The trees lost their leaves and stopped bearing fruit. Folk dwelling nearby were hounded by evil dreams. One by one they fled their homes and farmsteads, until only Marlene and Bartholomew were left.
One day Marlene dreamt the boy had awoken in his casket under the apple tree and begun to cry. She yearned to have a child of her own and such dreams troubled her greatly. She thus took a spade and dug up the coffin. Inside she found the child's body, but its arms or legs were missing. She thought the poor lad must have gnawed them off from wild hunger before he died. The sight of the child's mangled torso so terrified Marlene she reburied the coffin at once and never said a word about it to her husband.
They lived together a great many years afterwards, but theirs was not a good life. Bartholomew had changed. He slowly stopped cherishing Marlene, and then stopped speaking. He hanged himself on the night of the summer solstice, leaving his wife alone with her dreams. Before she died, Marlene dug up the child's coffin one more time. No one knows where she went and what she did with it. Their lands have lain deserted ever since. No plants will grow there, and no birds sing.
Wilhelm & Jacob G.