Faustina

by Charlotte Dovey
Joseph Fay (1812-1875) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
“Faust und Mephisto im Kerker” (Note: Here, the female character seems to be fleeing from a domineering and inconsiderate father-figure who should concern himself more with her welfare, as well as an evil male spirit! At least that’s one interpretation of this painting and the story behind it… Interestingly, the artist forgot about poor Marguerite in the title – or maybe he thinks she’s not important?)

Faustina was from a poor family in a small village.  She and her father lived in three rooms above a shop on the main street.  Faustina loved baking and sometimes sold her rolls and breads to the local inn. 

One day her father told her, “We should live in a better place.  It’s about time you started making money.  You’re old enough now.”

She considered this and suggested, “I could be a baker.”

Her father scoffed.  “How are you going to be a baker that makes money with that little oven?  You can barely fit a dozen rolls in that oven.  I want you to start going around to the neighbors to clean their houses and wash their laundry.”

Faustina knew better than to argue with her father.  She went to bed after dinner.  In the night, she could not sleep so she crept out of bed, and so as to not wake her father, she tip-toed into the kitchen to sit and think. 

Suddenly she realized that she was not alone.  A small, well-dressed man with rather large ears and nose was lurking in the shadows of the corner of the room.  She started, then he came forward, reassuring her with his soft gestures and easy manner.   

She asked, “What do you want?  What are you doing in my father’s kitchen?”

He smiled sympathetically and explained in a soothing voice, “Do not worry, I am not here to rob you!  I am here to help you.  Wouldn’t you like a kitchen of your own, a nice big one?”

“What is it to you?  How could you help me?” she asked.

“I have means to help people such as you.  I can teach you to bake, and I can give you the money you need to do so.”

“Why would you do this for me?”

He smiled again and gently replied, “I like to help people.  I help a lot of people.  And I could teach you to make things that would enchant people.”

Faustina had heard of such stories of kindly men of means.  Now that he was in the light and not in the shadows, she could see that his clothes were very fine indeed.  She had never seen the like. 

She asked, “What would I have to do?”

He told her that he would provide the money necessary and get what she needed and teach her for two years.  After that, she would repay him by working for her.  He did not mention how long she should do this for, and she did not think to ask.  She agreed.  He asked her to sign a contract.  She looked at the long document that was written in an odd sort of language.  Not wanting to keep him waiting while she tried to figure it out, she signed it.

As he turned to leave, she asked, “What is your name?”

“My name?  I am called Beelzebub.”

She thought that this was an odd sort of name and hoped that she could remember it, not wanting to appear rude or disinterested. She repeated it to herself three times.

The next day she told her father that a nice man had offered her money to start a bakery. 

Her father’s face turned red.  “What man?  When?” he demanded.

Faustina recounted some of the conversation from the previous night, but knowing that her father would never approve of a man letting himself into their rooms, she allowed her father to believe that she had gone out for a walk.  (She told herself, however, that she has not lied, as all she did was fail to correct her father’s wrong impression.)

Her father picked up the broom next to her and brought it down on Faustina, hollering, “How could you be so stupid?!  You are not to talk to him again!”  Faustina tried to ward off the blows, but ended up with several bruises nonetheless.

Faustina thinks about her father’s treatment of her all day, and the gentle manner of the man, whose name was Beelzebub.  That night, not knowing where she will go, she climbed out of the window into the darkness to look for him and escape her father. 

As she wandered the crooked little streets, she came upon Beelzebub again in a back alley.  He seemed to surmise what happened and led her to his carriage, and then drove her to the neighboring town that was much larger and livelier.  He stopped outside of a shop front and handed her a key.  He explained, “This is the new bakery.  You can live above it.”

After he left her, she found her way up into the house and up the stairs to a lovely warm room with a big fire and a comfortable bed with exquisite sheets and warm blankets.  She spread herself out onto the huge bed and revelled in falling sleeping in peace, all alone. 

She awoke the next morning in an unfamiliar place, so at first she thought she was dreaming, but remembering the night before and finding her new place around her, she made her way downstairs to light the fire.  As she turned around, she discovered Beelvebub smiling at her.

He exclaimed, “Now you start to bake!”

Over the course  of many months, he taught her the alchemy of food.  He explained that a flame is key to great food.  And he fetched for her exotic ingredients from all over the world, price being no object.  He pointed out to her and explained recipes and spells from his enormous, heavy books.  After some time, she, like him, was able to transform base ingredients into edible art; they used edible gold and intricate decorations that look like fine lacework.  They made glistening, intensely colored fruit jellies in the shape of precious stones.  They concocted potions from sugar, flour, eggs, cream, and even from the bones of animals. As she gained skill, the people who she sold her goods to praised her more and more and her confidence in her skill grew, making her skills even greater. 

Soon she could make gorgeous food out of anything at all.  She even learned to transform putrid pond water into good champagne.

Soon she was able to sell her goods to anyone she wished, and ask any price at all.

It was after this that Faustina began to lose some of the excitement regarding her occupation.  She quickly discovered that she could not satisfy her longing for better and more.  She stayed up nights, obsessed, and soon was exhausted all of the time.  

Not long after this, Beelzebub came to her with a request from the local merchant – the merchant wanted to feast on ostrich en croute.  Faust laughed as he conveyed this to her.  He said, “Don’t bother about the ostrich.  I have killed some ducks and you can use those instead.”

She asked, “But has not the man asked for ostrich?  Is that not a lie?”  She liked surpassing people’s expectations, but she also felt compelled to make food that was beyond the commonplace.

He replied, “We won’t lie. We just won’t volunteer the truth. How will he discover that we have done this?  He knows nothing about food at all.  He just wants to impress his friends.”

“I don’t want to cook the ducks.  You said that you would supply the ingredients I want.  Now go and get the ostrich.  That’s what the man wants.”

Beelzebub sneered at her wickedly.  “You think I work for you, you little creature?  You do as I tell you, as  I am teacher here.”

She angrily replied, “I may be your student, but we agreed.  Besides, even when I do work for you, it’s not forever and I will cook as I want.”

He scowled, but turned away to fetch her ostriches. Beelzebub did not think much of Faustina’s guile, so he did not bother to guard himself.  As he turned, she heard him mutter, “That’s what you think, you little fool.”  It was at this point she realized that she had been duped. 

Faustina knew that Beelvebub thought that she was too stupid to figure out what had happened.  She continued to work as before, but aware that the fixed time was up soon.

She procured an order from the castle – they wished her to make the wedding cake for the Princess’s upcoming wedding.  Faustina worked furiously for many days, hidden away in the kitchen.  When Beelzebub asked to see what she was doing, she smiled like an obedient girl and told him that she wanted to do it herself without his help, to make him proud.  He patronized her patiently, amused.  On the final day to finish the cake, Faustina locks herself in the kitchen.  While Beelzebub heard quite a lot of noise, he was content to let her get on with the affair. He also had other “pupils” to see to, after all.

The next day was the day of the wedding.  When Beezelbub arrived at the bakery, he found the kitchen door left wide open and the house empty.  He also found a note saying that she had hired a carriage to take the great cake to the castle.  

Beelzebub, as a well-known and important character of the town, had been invited, along with many other wealthy merchants and artisans, to the wedding reception.  When he arrived, he did not see Faustina.  He heard whispers, however; a rumour was spreading that she had disappeared. The cake had arrived nonetheless, with a note saying that instead of paying the bakery, that the money should be donated to a soup kitchen on her behalf.  The hushed voices speculate that she killed herself. 

A guest next to him at the reception commented to Beelzebub that the cake was remarkable.  There were marzipan figurines, almost like tiny statues, on the top of the cake.  The other guest pointed to it and said, “That figure looks exactly like Faustina, just as if she was made of marzipan.”  Beelzebub looked at the cake, then he grimaced. He replied sourly, “you can’t win them all.”

John Timbs [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

© Copyright 2019, Metamorphorica

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