"Dreams of a Young Swineherdess"

Tommy "Pistonbreeches" Gainesboro

In the village where the artist spent most of his life there was a young swineherdess named Petunia who had quite the fantastic imagination. She would tend her flock each day, driving them to and from the forest where they dug up truffles for the rich folks' tables or fattened on acorns during the fall. Every day she would return at sundown with an elaborate tale involving her charges — sometimes they were drawings that came to life, sometimes they were puppets who had almost human characteristics, and sometimes they told tales that were almost proverbial in their depth and perception.


No one but the artist seemed interested in her stories, and even he stayed carefully upwind. He was more interested in her as a model for his rustic paintings which were so much in vogue at the time.


One day she returned earlier than usual, out of breath and quite frightened. She told the kindly painter that she had built a little straw hut for her favorite piglet, but that a huge wolf had sprung out of the woods, and with a huff and a puff he had blown it down. 


The next day she came back in an even more agitated state, saying that she had built a little house of twigs this time, but the same dire wolf had sprung from the woods and blown it down with a huff and a puff. Her parents began to seriously consider locking her in the attic.


On the third day she did not return at her accustomed time, and near sundown a group of townspeople set off toward the woods to search for her. They found a quaint little miniature cottage made of sun-dried bricks, with the pigs safe and sound inside. All they found of the little swineherdess were a well-gnawed thighbone and a few shreds of her ragged hand-me-down riding hood. 


The artist thought that there should be a moral to such a bizarre and tragic tale, but he could never think of one, and soon gave up trying. The pigs died of cholera, as did most of the village. Gainesboro was killed by the irate father of a young boy whom he had decked out in silk garments to use as a model for his "Blue Boy" (qv).

 

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