The woman with three hundred and sixty-six children
She even burst into a bad temper, and reviled the woman for having two children, instead of one.
"Where did you get those brats? They are not yours. You just brought them here to play on my feelings and excite my jealousy. Begone!"
But the poor woman kept her temper. She begged piteously and said: "For the love of Heaven, feed my babies, even if you will not feed me."
"No! they are not yours. You're a cheat," said the fine lady, nursing her rage.
"Indeed, Madame, they are both my children and born on one day. They have one father, but he is dead. He was killed in the war, while serving his grace, your husband."
"Don't tell me such a story," snapped back the Countess, now in a fury. "I don't believe that any one, man or woman, could have two children at once. Away with you," and she seized a stick to drive off the poor woman.
Now, it was the turn of the beggar to answer back. Both had lost their temper, and the two angry women seemed more like she-bears robbed of their whelps.
"Heaven punish you, you wicked, cruel, cold-hearted woman," cried the mother. Her two babies were almost choking her in their eagerness for food. Yet their cries never moved the rich lady, who had bread and good things to spare, while their poor parent had not a drop of milk to give them. The Countess now called her men-servants to drive the beggar away. This they did, most brutally. They pushed the poor woman outside the garden gate and closed it behind her. As she turned away, the poor mother, taking each of her children by its back, one in each hand, held them up before the grand lady and cried out loudly, so that all heard her:
"May you have as many children as there are days in the year."
Now with all her wrath burning in her breast, what the beggar woman really meant was this: It was the third of January, and so there were but three days in the year, so far. She intended to say that, instead of having to care for two children, the Countess might have the trouble of rearing three, and all born on the same day.