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´╗┐Title: Pentamerone. English - Stories from the Pentamerone
Author: Basile, Giambattista, 1575-1632
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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Stories from Pentamerone


by

Giambattista Basile



NOTE

The collection of folk-tales known as Il Pentamerone was first
published at Naples and in the Neopolitan dialect, by Giambattista
Basile, Conte di Torrone, who is believed to have collected them
chiefly in Crete and Venice, and to have died about the year 1637.



CONTENTS

  1.  How the Tales came to be told
  2.  The Myrtle
  3.  Peruonto
  4.  Vardiello
  5.  The Flea
  6.  Cenerentola
  7.  The Merchant
  8.  Goat-Face
  9.  The Enchanted Doe
 10. Parsley
 11. The Three Sisters
 12. Violet
 13. Pippo
 14. The Serpent
 15. The She-Bear
 16. The Dove
 17. Cannetella
 18. Corvetto
 19. The Booby
 20. The Stone in the Cock's Head
 21. The Three Enchanted Princes
 22. The Dragon
 23. The Two Cakes
 24. The Seven Doves
 25. The Raven
 26. The Months
 27. Pintosmalto
 28. The Golden Root
 29. Sun, Moon, and Talia
 30. Nennillo and Nennella
 31. The Three Citrons
 32. Conclusion



I

HOW THE TALES CAME TO BE TOLD

It is an old saying, that he who seeks what he should not, finds what
he would not. Every one has heard of the ape who, in trying to pull on
his boots, was caught by the foot. And it happened in like manner to a
wretched slave, who, although she never had shoes to her feet, wanted
to wear a crown on her head. But the straight road is the best; and,
sooner or later, a day comes which settles all accounts. At last,
having by evil means usurped what belonged to another, she fell to the
ground; and the higher she had mounted, the greater was her fall--as
you shall see.


Once upon a time the King of Woody Valley had a daughter named Zoza,
who was never seen to laugh. The unhappy father, who had no other
comfort in life but this only daughter, left nothing untried to drive
away her melancholy. So he sent for folks who walk on stilts, fellows
who jump through hoops, for boxers, for conjurers, for jugglers who
perform sleight-of-hand tricks, for strong men, for dancing dogs, for
leaping clowns, for the donkey that drinks out of a tumbler--in short,
he tried first one thing and then another to make her laugh. But all
was time lost, for nothing could bring a smile to her lips.

So at length the poor father, at wit's end, and to make a last trial,
ordered a large fountain of oil to be set in front of the palace gates,
thinking to himself that when the oil ran down the street, along which
the people passed like a troop of ants, they would be obliged, in order
not to soil their clothes, to skip like grasshoppers, leap like goats,
and run like hares; while one would go picking and choosing his way,
and another go creeping along the wall. In short, he hoped that
something might come to pass to make his daughter laugh.

So the fountain was made; and as Zoza was one day standing at the
window, grave and demure, and looking as sour as vinegar, there came by
chance an old woman, who, soaking up the oil with a sponge, began to
fill a little pitcher which she had brought with her. And as she was
labouring hard at this ingenious device, a young page of the court
passing by threw a stone so exactly to a hair that he hit the pitcher
and broke it to pieces. Whereupon the old woman, who had no hair on her
tongue, turned to the page, full of wrath, and exclaimed, "Ah, you
impertinent young dog, you mule, you gallows-rope, you spindle-legs!
Ill luck to you! May you be pierced by a Catalan lance! May a thousand
ills befall you and something more to boot, you thief, you knave!"

The lad, who had little beard and less discretion, hearing this string
of abuse, repaid the old woman in her own coin, saying, "Have you done,
you grandmother of witches, you old hag, you child-strangler!"

When the old woman heard these compliments she flew into such a rage
that, losing hold of the bridle and escaping from the stable of
patience, she acted as if she were mad, cutting capers in the air and
grinning like an ape. At this strange spectacle Zoza burst into such a
fit of laughter that she well-nigh fainted away. But when the old woman
saw herself played this trick, she flew into a passion, and turning a
fierce look on Zoza she exclaimed: "May you never have the least little
bit of a husband, unless you take the Prince of Round-Field."

Upon hearing this, Zoza ordered the old woman to be called; and desired
to know whether, in her words, she had laid on her a curse, or had only
meant to insult her. And the old woman answered, "Know then, that the
Prince of whom I spoke is a most handsome creature, and is named
Taddeo, who, by the wicked spell of a fairy, having given the last
touch to the picture of life, has been placed in a tomb outside the
walls of the city; and there is an inscription upon a stone, saying
that whatever woman shall in three days fill with tears a pitcher that
hangs there upon a hook will bring the Prince to life and shall take
him for a husband. But as it is impossible for two human eyes to weep
so much as to fill a pitcher that would hold half a barrel, I have
wished you this wish in return for your scoffing and jeering at me. And
I pray that it may come to pass, to avenge the wrong you have done me."
So saying, she scuttled down the stairs, for fear of a beating.

Zoza pondered over the words of the old woman, and after turning over a
hundred thoughts in her mind, until her head was like a mill full of
doubts, she was at last struck by a dart of the passion that blinds the
judgment and puts a spell on the reasoning of man. She took a handful
of dollars from her father's coffers and left the palace, walking on
and on, until she arrived at the castle of a fairy, to whom she
unburdened her heart. The fairy, out of pity for such a fair young
girl, who had two spurs to make her fall--little help and much love for
an unknown object--gave her a letter of recommendation to a sister of
hers, who was also a fairy. And this second fairy received her likewise
with great kindness; and on the following morning, when Night commands
the birds to proclaim that whoever has seen a flock of black shadows
gone astray shall be well rewarded, she gave her a beautiful walnut,
saying, "Take this, my dear daughter, and keep it carefully; but never
open it, but in time of the greatest need." And then she gave her also
a letter, commending her to another sister.

After journeying a long way, Zoza arrived at this fairy's castle, and
was received with the same affection. And the next morning this fairy
likewise gave her a letter to another sister, together with a chestnut,
cautioning her in the same manner. Then Zoza travelled on to the next
castle, where she was received with a thousand caresses and given a
filbert, which she was never to open, unless the greatest necessity
obliged her. So she set out upon her journey, and passed so many
forests and rivers, that at the end of seven years, just at the time of
day when the Sun, awakened by the coming of the cocks, has saddled his
steed to run his accustomed stages, she arrived almost lame at
Round-Field.

There, at the entrance to the city, she saw a marble tomb, at the foot
of a fountain, which was weeping tears of crystal at seeing itself shut
up in a porphyry prison. And, lifting up the pitcher, she placed it in
her lap and began to weep into it, imitating the fountain to make two
little fountains of her eyes. And thus she continued without ever
raising her head from the mouth of the pitcher--until, at the end of
two days, it was full within two inches of the top. But, being wearied
with so much weeping, she was unawares overtaken by sleep, and was
obliged to rest for an hour or so under the canopy of her eyes.

Meanwhile a certain Slave, with the legs of a grasshopper, came, as she
was wont, to the fountain, to fill her water-cask. Now she knew the
meaning of the fountain which was talked of everywhere; and when she
saw Zoza weeping so incessantly, and making two little streams from her
eyes, she was always watching and spying until the pitcher should be
full enough for her to add the last drops to it; and thus to leave Zoza
cheated of her hopes. Now, therefore, seeing Zoza asleep, she seized
her opportunity; and dexterously removing the pitcher from under Zoza,
and placing her own eyes over it, she filled it in four seconds. But
hardly was it full, when the Prince arose from the white marble shrine,
as if awakened from a deep sleep, and embraced that mass of dark flesh,
and carried her straightways to his palace; feasts and marvellous
illuminations were made, and he took her for his wife.

When Zoza awoke and saw the pitcher gone, and her hopes with it, and
the shrine open, her heart grew so heavy that she was on the point of
unpacking the bales of her soul at the custom-house of Death. But, at
last, seeing that there was no help for her misfortune, and that she
could only blame her own eyes, which had served her so ill, she went
her way, step by step, into the city. And when she heard of the feasts
which the Prince had made, and the dainty creature he had married, she
instantly knew how all this mischief had come to pass; and said to
herself, sighing, "Alas, two dark things have brought me to the
ground,--sleep and a black slave!" Then she took a fine house facing
the palace of the Prince; from whence, though she could not see the
idol of her heart, she could at least look upon the walls wherein what
she sighed for was enclosed.

But Taddeo, who was constantly flying like a bat round that black night
of a Slave, chanced to perceive Zoza and was entranced with her beauty.
When the Slave saw this she was beside herself with rage, and vowed
that if Taddeo did not leave the window, she would kill her baby when
it was born.

Taddeo, who was anxiously desiring an heir, was afraid to offend his
wife and tore himself away from the sight of Zoza; who seeing this
little balm for the sickness of her hopes taken away from her, knew
not, at first, what to do. But, recollecting the fairies' gifts, she
opened the walnut, and out of it hopped a little dwarf like a doll, the
most graceful toy that was ever seen in the world. Then, seating
himself upon the window, the dwarf began to sing with such a trill and
gurgling, that he seemed a veritable king of the birds.

The Slave, when she saw and heard this, was so enraptured that, calling
Taddeo, she said, "Bring me the little fellow who is singing yonder, or
I will kill the child when it is born." So the Prince, who allowed this
ugly woman to put the saddle on his back, sent instantly to Zoza, to
ask if she would not sell the dwarf. Zoza answered she was not a
merchant, but that he was welcome to it as a gift. So Taddeo accepted
the offer, for he was anxious to keep his wife in good humour.

Four days after this, Zoza opened the chestnut, when out came a hen
with twelve little chickens, all of pure gold, and, being placed on the
window, the Slave saw them and took a vast fancy to them; and calling
Taddeo, she showed him the beautiful sight, and again ordered him to
procure the hen and chickens for her. So Taddeo, who let himself be
caught in the web, and become the sport of the ugly creature, sent
again to Zoza, offering her any price she might ask for the beautiful
hen. But Zoza gave the same answer as before, that he might have it as
a gift. Taddeo, therefore, who could not do otherwise, made necessity
kick at discretion, and accepted the beautiful present.

But after four days more, Zoza opened the hazel-nut, and forth came a
doll which spun gold--an amazing sight. As soon as it was placed at the
same window, the Slave saw it and, calling to Taddeo, said, "I must
have that doll, or I will kill the child." Taddeo, who let his proud
wife toss him about like a shuttle, had nevertheless not the heart to
send to Zoza for the doll, but resolved to go himself, recollecting the
sayings: "No messenger is better than yourself," and "Let him who would
eat a fish take it by the tail." So he went and besought Zoza to pardon
his impertinence, on account of the caprices of his wife; and Zoza, who
was in ecstasies at beholding the cause of her sorrow, put a constraint
on herself; and so let him entreat her the longer to keep in sight the
object of her love, who was stolen from her by an ugly slave. At length
she gave him the doll, as she had done the other things, but before
placing it in his hands, she prayed the little doll to put a desire
into the heart of the Slave to hear stories told by her. And when
Taddeo saw the doll in his hand, without his paying a single coin, he
was so filled with amazement at such courtesy that he offered his
kingdom and his life in exchange for the gift. Then, returning to his
palace, he placed it in his wife's hands; and instantly such a longing
seized her to hear stories told, that she called her husband and said,
"Bid some story-tellers come and tell me stories, or I promise you, I
will kill the child."

Taddeo, to get rid of this madness, ordered a proclamation instantly to
be made, that all the women of the land should come on the appointed
day. And on that day, at the hour when the star of Venus appears, who
awakes the Dawn, to strew the road along which the Sun has to pass, the
ladies were all assembled at the palace. But Taddeo, not wishing to
detain such a rabble for the mere amusement of his wife, chose ten only
of the best of the city who appeared to him most capable and eloquent.
These were Bushy-haired Zeza, Bandy-legged Cecca, Wen-necked Meneca,
Long-nosed Tolla, Humph-backed Popa, Bearded Antonella, Dumpy Ciulla,
Blear-eyed Paola, Bald-headed Civonmetella, and Square-shouldered
Jacova. Their names he wrote down on a sheet of paper; and then,
dismissing the others, he arose with the Slave from under the canopy,
and they went gently to the garden of the palace, where the leafy
branches were so closely interlaced, that the Sun could not separate
them with all the industry of his rays. And seating themselves under a
pavilion, formed by a trellis of vines, in the middle of which ran a
great fountain--the schoolmaster of the courtiers, whom he taught
everyday to murmur--Taddeo thus began:

"There is nothing in the world more glorious, my gentle dames, than to
listen to the deeds of others; nor was it without reason that the great
philosopher placed the highest happiness of man in listening to pretty
stories. In hearing pleasing things told, griefs vanish, troublesome
thoughts are put to flight and life is lengthened. And, for this
reason, you see the artisans leave their workshops, the merchants their
country-houses, the lawyers their cases, the shopkeepers their
business, and all repair with open mouths to the barbers' shops and to
the groups of chatterers, to listen to stories, fictions, and news in
the open air. I cannot, therefore, but pardon my wife, who has taken
this strange fancy into her head of hearing the telling of tales. So,
if you will be pleased to satisfy the whim of the Princess and comply
with my wishes, you will, during the next four or five days, each of
you relate daily one of those tales which old women are wont to tell
for the amusement of the little ones. And you will come regularly to
this spot; where, after a good repast, you shall begin to tell stories,
so as to pass life pleasantly--and sorrow to him that dies!"

At these words, all bowed assent to the commands of Taddeo; and the
tables being meanwhile set out and feast spread, they sat down to eat.
And when they had done eating, the Prince took the paper and calling on
each in turn, by name, the stories that follow were told, in due order.



II

THE MYRTLE

There lived in the village of Miano a man and his wife, who had no
children whatever, and they longed with the greatest eagerness to have
an heir. The woman, above all, was for ever saying, "O heavens! if I
might but have a little baby--I should not care, were it even a sprig
of a myrtle." And she repeated this song so often, and so wearied
Heaven with these words, that at last her wish was granted; and at the
end of nine months, instead of a little boy or girl, she placed in the
hands of the nurse a fine sprig of myrtle. This she planted with great
delight in a pot, ornamented with ever so many beautiful figures, and
set it in the window, tending it morning and evening with more
diligence than the gardener does a bed of cabbages from which he
reckons to pay the rent of his garden.

Now the King's son happening to pass by, as he was going to hunt, took
a prodigious fancy to this beautiful plant, and sent to ask the
mistress of the house if she would sell it, for he would give even one
of his eyes for it. The woman at last, after a thousand difficulties
and refusals, allured by his offers, dazzled by his promises,
frightened by his threats, overcome by his prayers, gave him the pot,
beseeching him to hold it dear, for she loved it more than a daughter,
and valued it as much as if it were her own offspring. Then the Prince
had the flower-pot carried with the greatest care in the world into his
own chamber, and placed it in a balcony, and tended and watered it with
his own hand.

It happened one evening, when the Prince had gone to bed, and put out
the candles, and all were at rest and in their first sleep, that he
heard the sound of some one stealing through the house, and coming
cautiously towards his bed; whereat he thought it must be some
chamber-boy coming to lighten his purse for him, or some mischievous
imp to pull the bed-clothes off him. But as he was a bold fellow, whom
none could frighten, he acted the dead cat, waiting to see the upshot
of the affair. When he perceived the object approach nearer, and
stretching out his hand felt something smooth, and instead of laying
hold, as he expected, on the prickles of a hedgehog, he touched a
little creature more soft and fine than Barbary wool, more pliant and
tender than a marten's tail, more delicate than thistle-down, he flew
from one thought to another, and taking her to be a fairy (as indeed
she was), he conceived at once a great affection for her. The next
morning, before the Sun, like a chief physician, went out to visit the
flowers that are sick and languid, the unknown fair one rose and
disappeared, leaving the Prince filled with curiosity and wonder.

But when this had gone on for seven days, he was burning and melting
with desire to know what good fortune this was that the stars had
showered down on him, and what ship freighted with the graces of Love
it was that had come to its moorings in his chamber. So one night, when
the fair maiden was fast asleep, he tied one of her tresses to his arm,
that she might not escape; then he called a chamberlain, and bidding
him light the candles, he saw the flower of beauty, the miracle of
women, the looking-glass and painted egg of Venus, the fair bait of
Love--he saw a little doll, a beautiful dove, a Fata Morgana, a
banner--he saw a golden trinket, a hunter, a falcon's eye, a moon in
her fifteenth day, a pigeon's bill, a morsel for a king, a jewel--he
saw, in short, a sight to amaze one.

In astonishment he cried, "O sleep, sweet sleep! heap poppies on the
eyes of this lovely jewel; interrupt not my delight in viewing as long
as I desire this triumph of beauty. O lovely tress that binds me! O
lovely eyes that inflame me! O lovely lips that refresh me! O lovely
bosom that consoles me! Oh where, at what shop of the wonders of
Nature, was this living statue made? What India gave the gold for these
hairs? What Ethiopia the ivory to form these brows? What seashore the
carbuncles that compose these eyes? What Tyre the purple to dye this
face? What East the pearls to string these teeth? And from what
mountains was the snow taken to sprinkle over this bosom--snow contrary
to nature, that nurtures the flowers and burns hearts?"

So saying he made a vine of his arms, and clasping her neck, she awoke
from her sleep and replied, with a gentle smile, to the sigh of the
enamoured Prince; who, seeing her open her eyes, said, "O my treasure,
if viewing without candles this temple of love I was in transports,
what will become of my life now that you have lighted two lamps? O
beauteous eyes, that with a trump-card of light make the stars
bankrupt, you alone have pierced this heart, you alone can make a
poultice for it like fresh eggs! O my lovely physician, take pity, take
pity on one who is sick of love; who, having changed the air from the
darkness of night to the light of this beauty, is seized by a fever;
lay your hand on this heart, feel my pulse, give me a prescription.
But, my soul, why do I ask for a prescription? I desire no other
comfort than a touch of that little hand; for I am certain that with
the cordial of that fair grace, and with the healing root of that
tongue of thine, I shall be sound and well again."

At these words the lovely fairy grew as red as fire, and replied, "Not
so much praise, my lord Prince! I am your servant, and would do
anything in the world to serve that kingly face; and I esteem it great
good fortune that from a bunch of myrtle, set in a pot of earth, I have
become a branch of laurel hung over the inn-door of a heart in which
there is so much greatness and virtue."

The Prince, melting at these words like a tallow-candle, began again to
embrace her; and sealing the latter with a kiss, he gave her his hand,
saying, "Take my faith, you shall be my wife, you shall be mistress of
my sceptre, you shall have the key of this heart, as you hold the helm
of this life." After these and a hundred other ceremonies and
discourses they arose. And so it went on for several days.

But as spoil-sport, marriage-parting Fate is always a hindrance to the
steps of Love, it fell out that the Prince was summoned to hunt a great
wild boar which was ravaging the country. So he was forced to leave his
wife. But as he loved her more than his life, and saw that she was
beautiful beyond all beautiful things, from this love and beauty there
sprang up the feeling of jealousy, which is a tempest in the sea of
love, a piece of soot that falls into the pottage of the bliss of
lovers--which is a serpent that bites, a worm that gnaws, a gall that
poisons, a frost that kills, making life always restless, the mind
unstable, the heart ever suspicious. So, calling the fairy, he said to
her, "I am obliged, my heart, to be away from home for two or three
days; Heaven knows with how much grief I tear myself from you, who are
my soul; and Heaven knows too whether, ere I set out, my life may not
end; but as I cannot help going, to please my father, I must leave you.
I, therefore, pray you, by all the love you bear me, to go back into
the flower-pot, and not to come out of it till I return, which will be
as soon as possible."

"I will do so," said the fairy, "for I cannot and will not refuse what
pleases you. Go, therefore, and may the mother of good luck go with
you, for I will serve you to the best of my power. But do me one
favour; leave a thread of silk with a bell tied to the top of the
myrtle, and when you come back pull the thread and ring, and
immediately I will come out and say,  Here I am.'"

The Prince did so, and then calling a chamberlain, said to him, "Come
hither, come hither, you! Open your ears and mind what I say. Make this
bed every evening, as if I were myself to sleep in it. Water this
flower-pot regularly, and mind, I have counted the leaves, and if I
find one missing I will take from you the means of earning your bread."
So saying he mounted his horse, and went, like a sheep that is led to
the slaughter, to follow a boar. In the meanwhile seven wicked women,
with whom the Prince had been acquainted, began to grow jealous; and
being curious to pry into the secret, they sent for a mason, and for a
good sum of money got him to make an underground passage from their
house into the Prince's chamber. Then these cunning jades went through
the passage in order to explore. But finding nothing, they opened the
window; and when they saw the beautiful myrtle standing there, each of
them plucked a leaf from it; but the youngest took off the entire top,
to which the little bell was hung; and the moment it was touched the
bell tinkled and the fairy, thinking it was the Prince, immediately
came out.

As soon as the wicked women saw this lovely creature they fastened
their talons on her, crying, "You are she who turns to your own mill
the stream of our hopes! You it is who have stolen the favour of the
Prince! But you are come to an end of your tricks, my fine lady! You
are nimble enough in running off, but you are caught in your tricks
this time, and if you escape, you were never born."

So saying, they flew upon her, and instantly tore her in pieces, and
each of them took her part. But the youngest would not join in this
cruel act; and when she was invited by her sisters to do as they did,
she would take nothing but a lock of those golden hairs. So when they
had done they went quickly away by the passage through which they had
come.

Meanwhile the chamberlain came to make the bed and water the
flower-pot, according to his master's orders, and seeing this pretty
piece of work, he had like to have died of terror. Then, biting his
nails with vexation, he set to work, gathered up the remains of the
flesh and bones that were left, and scraping the blood from the floor,
he piled them all up in a heap in the pot; and having watered it, he
made the bed, locked the door, put the key under the door, and taking
to his heels ran away out of the town.

When the Prince came back from the chase, he pulled the silken string
and rung the little bell; but ring as he would it was all lost time; he
might sound the tocsin, and ring till he was tired, for the fairy gave
no heed. So he went straight to the chamber, and not having patience to
call the chamberlain and ask for the key, he gave the lock a kick,
burst open the door, went in, opened the window, and seeing the myrtle
stript of its leaves, he fell to making a most doleful lamentation,
crying, shouting, and bawling, "O wretched me! unhappy me! O miserable
me! Who has played me this trick? and who has thus trumped my card? O
ruined, banished, and undone prince! O my leafless myrtle! my lost
fairy! O my wretched life! my joys vanished into smoke! my pleasures
turned to vinegar! What will you do, unhappy man! Leap quickly over
this ditch! You have fallen from all happiness, and will you not cut
your throat? You are robbed of every treasure! You are expelled from
life, and do you not go mad? Where are you? where are you, my myrtle?
And what soul more hard than marble has destroyed this beautiful
flower-pot? O cursed chase, that has chased me from all happiness!
Alas! I am done for, I am overthrown, I am ruined, I have ended my
days; it is not possible for me to get through life without my life; I
must stretch my legs, since without my love sleep will be lamentation,
food, poison, pleasure insipid, and life sour."

These and many other exclamations that would move the very stones in
the streets, were uttered by the Prince; and after repeating them again
and again, and wailing bitterly, full of sorrow and woe, never shutting
an eye to sleep, nor opening his mouth to eat, he gave such way to
grief, that his face, which was before of oriental vermilion, became of
gold paint, and the ham of his lips became rusty bacon.

The fairy, who had sprouted up again from the remains that were put in
the pot, seeing the misery and tribulation of her poor lover, and how
he was turned in a second to the colour of a sick Spaniard, of a
venomous lizard, of the sap of a leaf, of a jaundiced person, of a
dried pear, was moved with compassion; and springing out of the pot,
like the light of a candle shooting out of a dark lantern, she stood
before Cola Marchione, and embracing him in her arms she said, "Take
heart, take heart, my Prince! have done now with this lamenting, wipe
your eyes, quiet your anger, smooth your face. Behold me alive and
handsome, in spite of those wicked women, who split my head and so
ill-treated me."

The Prince, seeing this when he least expected it, arose again from
death to life, and the colour returned to his cheeks, warmth to his
blood, breath to his breast. After giving her a thousand caresses and
embraces, he desired to know the whole affair from head to foot; and
when he found that the chamberlain was not to blame, he ordered him to
be called, and giving a great banquet, he, with the full consent of his
father, married the fairy. And he invited all the great people of the
kingdom, but, above all others, he would have present those seven
serpents who had committed the slaughter of that sweet suckling-calf.

And as soon as they had done eating, the Prince asked all the guests,
one after another, what he deserved who had injured that beautiful
maiden--pointing to the fairy, who looked so lovely that she shot
hearts like a sprite and drew souls like a windlass.

Then all who sat at table, beginning with the King, said, one that he
deserved the gallows, another that he merited the wheel, a third the
pincers, a fourth to be thrown from a precipice; in short one proposed
this punishment and another that. At last it came to the turn of the
seven wicked women to speak, who, although they did not much relish
this conversation, yet, as the truth comes out when the wine goes
about, answered, that whoever had the heart basely to touch only this
quintessence of the charms of love deserved to be buried alive in a
dungeon.

"As you have pronounced this sentence with your own lips," said the
Prince, "you have yourselves judged the cause, you have yourselves
signed the decree. It remains for me to cause your order to be
executed, since it is you who with the heart of a negro, with the
cruelty of Medea, made a fritter of this beautiful head, and chopped up
these lovely limbs like sausage-meat. So quick, make haste, lose not a
moment! throw them this very instant into a large dungeon, where they
shall end their days miserably."

So this order was instantly carried into execution. The Prince married
the youngest sister of these wicked creatures to the chamberlain, and
gave her a good portion. And giving also to the father and mother of
the myrtle wherewithal to live comfortably, he himself spent his days
happily with the fairy; while the wicked women ended their lives in
bitter anguish, and thus verified the proverb of the wise men of old--

     "The lame goat will hop
     If he meets with no stop."



III

PERUONTO

A good deed is never lost. He who sows courtesy reaps benefit; and he
who gathers kindness gathers love. Pleasure bestowed on a grateful mind
was never barren, but always brings a good recompense; and that is the
moral of the story I am going to tell you.

Once upon a time a woman who lived in a village, and was called
Ceccarella, had a son named Peruonto, who was one of the most stupid
lads that ever was born. This made his mother very unhappy, and all day
long she would grieve because of this great misfortune. For whether she
asked him kindly, or stormed at him till her throat was dry, the
foolish fellow would not stir to do the slightest hand's turn for her.
At last, after a thousand dinnings at his brain, and a thousand
splittings of his head, and saying "I tell you" and "I told you" day
after day, she got him to go to the wood for a faggot, saying, "Come
now, it is time for us to get a morsel to eat, so run off for some
sticks, and don't forget yourself on the way, but come back as quick as
you can, and we will boil ourselves some cabbage, to keep the life in
us."

Away went the stupid Peruonto, hanging down his head as if he was going
to gaol. Away he went, walking as if he were a jackdaw, or treading on
eggs, counting his steps, at the pace of a snail's gallop, and making
all sorts of zigzags and excursions on his way to the wood, to come
there after the fashion of a raven. And when he reached the middle of a
plain, through which ran a river growling and murmuring at the bad
manners of the stones that were stopping its way, he saw three youths
who had made themselves a bed of grass and a pillow of a great flint
stone, and were lying sound asleep under the blaze of the Sun, who was
shooting his rays down on them point blank. When Peruonto saw these
poor creatures, looking as if they were in the midst of a fountain of
fire, he felt pity for them, and cutting some branches of oak, he made
a handsome arbour over them. Meanwhile, the youths, who were the sons
of a fairy, awoke, and, seeing the kindness and courtesy of Peruonto,
they gave him a charm, that every thing he asked for should be done.

Peruonto, having performed this good action, went his ways towards the
wood, where he made up such an enormous faggot that it would have
needed an engine to draw it; and, seeing that he could not in any way
get in on his back, he set himself astride of it and cried, "Oh, what a
lucky fellow I should be if this faggot would carry me riding
a-horseback!" And the word was hardly out of his mouth when the faggot
began to trot and gallop like a great horse, and when it came in front
of the King's palace it pranced and capered and curvetted in a way that
would amaze you. The ladies who were standing at one of the windows, on
seeing such a wonderful sight, ran to call Vastolla, the daughter of
the King, who, going to the window and observing the caracoles of a
faggot and the bounds of a bundle of wood, burst out a-laughing--a
thing which, owing to a natural melancholy, she never remembered to
have done before. Peruonto raised his head, and, seeing that it was at
him that they were laughing, exclaimed, "Oh, Vastolla, I wish that I
could be your husband and I would soon cure you of laughing at me!" And
so saying, he struck his heels into the faggot, and in a dashing gallop
he was quickly at home, with such a train of little boys at his heels
that if his mother had not been quick to shut the door they would soon
have killed him with the stones and sticks with which they pelted him.

Now came the question of marrying Vastolla to some great prince, and
her father invited all he knew to come and visit him and pay their
respects to the Princess. But she refused to have anything to say to
either of them, and only answered, "I will marry none but the young man
who rode on the faggot." So that the King got more and more angry with
every refusal, and at last he was quite unable to contain himself any
longer, and called his Council together and said, "You know by this
time how my honour has been shamed, and that my daughter has acted in
such a manner that all the chronicles will tell the story against me,
so now speak and advise me. I say that she is unworthy to live, seeing
that she has brought me into such discredit, and I wish to put her
altogether out of the world before she does more mischief." The
Councillors, who had in their time learned much wisdom, said, "Of a
truth she deserves to be severely punished. But, after all, it is this
audacious scoundrel who has give you the annoyance, and it is not right
that he should escape through the meshes of the net. Let us wait, then,
till he comes to light, and we discover the root of this disgrace, and
then we will think it over and resolve what were best to be done." This
counsel pleased the King, for he saw that they spoke like sensible,
prudent men, so he held his hand and said, "Let us wait and see the end
of this business."

So then the King made a great banquet, and invited every one of his
nobles and all the gentlemen in his kingdom to come to it, and set
Vastolla at the high table at the top of the hall, for, he said, "No
common man can have done this, and when she recognises the fellow we
shall see her eyes turn to him, and we will instantly lay hold on him
and put him out of the way." But when the feasting was done, and all
the guests passed out in a line, Vastolla took no more notice of them
than Alexander's bull-dog did of the rabbits; and the King grew more
angry than ever, and vowed that he would kill her without more delay.
Again, however, the Councillors pacified him and said, "Softly, softly,
your Majesty! quiet your wrath. Let us make another banquet to-morrow,
not for people of condition but for the lower sort. Some women always
attach themselves to the worst, and we shall find among the cutlers,
and bead-makers, and comb-sellers, the root of your anger, which we
have not discovered among the cavaliers."

This reasoning took the fancy of the King, and he ordered a second
banquet to be prepared, to which, on proclamation being made, came all
the riff-raff and rag-tag and bob-tail of the city, such as rogues,
scavengers, tinkers, pedlars, sweeps, beggars, and such like rabble,
who were all in high glee; and, taking their seats like noblemen at a
great long table, they began to feast and gobble away.

Now, when Ceccarella heard this proclamation, she began to urge
Peruonto to go there too, until at last she got him to set out for the
feast. And scarcely had he arrived there when Vastolla cried out
without thinking, "That is my Knight of the Faggot." When the King
heard this he tore his beard, seeing that the bean of the cake, the
prize in the lottery, had fallen to an ugly lout, the very sight of
whom he could not endure, with a shaggy head, owl's eyes, a parrot's
nose, a deer's mouth, and legs bare and bandy. Then, heaving a deep
sigh, he said, "What can that jade of a daughter of mine have seen to
make her take a fancy to this ogre, or strike up a dance with this
hairy-foot? Ah, vile, false creature, who has cast so base a spell on
her? But why do we wait? Let her suffer the punishment she deserves;
let her undergo the penalty that shall be decreed by you, and take her
from my presence, for I cannot bear to look longer upon her."

Then the Councillors consulted together and they resolved that she, as
well as the evil-doer, should be shut up in a cask and thrown into the
sea; so that without staining the King's hands with the blood of one of
his family, they should carry out the sentence. No sooner was the
judgment pronounced, than the cask was brought and both were put into
it; but before they coopered it up, some of Vastolla's ladies, crying
and sobbing as if their hearts would break, put into it a basket of
raisins and dried figs that she might have wherewithal to live on for a
little while. And when the cask was closed up, it was flung into the
sea, on which it went floating as the wind drove it.

Meanwhile Vastolla, weeping till her eyes ran like two rivers, said to
Peruonto, "What a sad misfortune is this of ours! Oh, if I but knew who
has played me this trick, to have me caged in this dungeon! Alas, alas,
to find myself in this plight without knowing how. Tell me, tell me, O
cruel man, what incantation was it you made, and what spell did you
employ, to bring me within the circle of this cask?" Peruonto, who had
been for some time paying little attention to her, at last said, "If
you want me to tell you, you must give me some figs and raisins." So
Vastolla, to draw the secret out of him, gave him a handful of both;
and as soon as he had eaten them he told her truly all that had
befallen him, with the three youths, and with the faggot, and with
herself at the window: which, when the poor lady heard, she took heart
and said to Peruonto, "My friend, shall we then let our lives run out
in a cask? Why don't you cause this tub to be changed into a fine ship
and run into some good harbour to escape this danger?" And Peruonto
replied--

     "If you would have me say the spell,
     With figs and raisins feed me well!"

So Vastolla, to make him open his mouth, filled it with fruit; and so
she fished the words out of him. And lo! as soon as Peruonto had said
what she desired, the cask was turned into a beautiful ship; with sails
and sailors and everything that could be wished for; and guns and
trumpets and a splendid cabin in which Vastolla sat filled with delight.

It being now the hour when the Moon begins to play at see-saw with the
Sun, Vastolla said to Peruonto, "My fine lad, now make this ship to be
changed into a palace, for then we shall be more secure; you know the
saying, "Praise the Sea, but keep to the Land." And Peruonto replied--

     "If you would have me say the spell,
     With figs and raisins feed me well!"

So Vastolla, at once, fed him again, and Peruonto, swallowing down the
raisins and figs, did her pleasure; and immediately the ship came to
land and was changed into a beautiful palace, fitted up in a most
sumptuous manner, and so full of furniture and curtains and hangings
that there was nothing more to ask for. So that Vastolla, who a little
before would not have set the price of a farthing on her life, did not
now wish to change places with the greatest lady in the world, seeing
herself served and treated like a queen. Then to put the seal on all
her good fortune, she besought Peruonto to obtain grace to become
handsome and polished in his manner, that they might live happy
together; for though the proverb says, "Better to have a pig for a
husband, than a smile from an emperor," still, if his appearance were
changed, she should think herself the happiest woman in the universe.
And Peruonto replied as before--

     "If you would have me say the spell,
     With figs and raisins feed me well!"

Then Vastolla quickly opened his lips, and scarcely had he spoken the
words when he was changed, as it were from an owl to a nightingale,
from an ogre to a beautiful youth, from a scarecrow to a fine
gentleman. Vastolla, seeing such a transformation clasped him in her
arms and was almost beside herself with joy. Then they were married and
lived happily for years.

Meanwhile the King grew old and very sad, so that, one day, the
courtiers persuaded him to go a-hunting to cheer him up. Night overtook
him, and, seeing a light in a palace, he sent a servant to know if he
could be entertained there; and he was answered that everything was at
his disposal. So the King went to the palace and passing into a great
guest-chamber he saw no living soul, but two little boys, who skipped
around him crying, "Welcome, welcome!" The King, surprised and
astonished, stood like one that was enchanted, and sitting down to rest
himself at a table, to his amazement he saw invisibly spread on it a
Flanders tablecloth, with dishes full of roast meats and all sorts of
viands; so that, in truth, he feasted like a King, waited on by those
beautiful children, and all the while he sat at table a concert of
lutes and tambourines never ceased--such delicious music that it went
to the tips of his fingers and toes. When he had done eating, a bed
suddenly appeared all made of gold, and having his boots taken off, he
went to rest and all his courtiers did the same, after having fed
heartily at a hundred tables, which were laid out in the other rooms.

When morning came, the King wished to thank the two little children,
but with them appeared Vastolla and her husband; and casting herself at
his feet she asked his pardon and related the whole story. The King,
seeing that he had found two grandsons who were two jewels and a
son-in-law who was a fairy, embraced first one and then the other; and
taking up the children in his arms, they all returned to the city where
there was a great festival that lasted many days.



IV

VARDIELLO

If Nature had given to animals the necessity of clothing themselves,
and of buying their food, the race of quadrupeds would inevitably be
destroyed. Therefore it is that they find their food without
trouble,--without gardener to gather it, purchaser to buy it, cook to
prepare it, or carver to cut it up; whilst their skin defends them from
the rain and snow, without the merchant giving them cloth, the tailor
making the dress, or the errand-boy begging for a drink-penny. To man
however, who has intelligence, Nature did not care to grant these
indulgences, since he is able to procure for himself what he wants.
This is the reason that we commonly see clever men poor, and blockheads
rich; as you may gather from the story which I am going to tell you.

Grannonia of Aprano was a woman of a great sense and judgment, but she
had a son named Vardiello, who was the greatest booby and simpleton in
the whole country round about. Nevertheless, as a mother's eyes are
bewitched and see what does not exist, she doted upon him so much, that
she was for ever caressing and fondling him as if he were the
handsomest creature in the world.

Now Grannonia kept a brood-hen, that was sitting upon a nest of eggs,
in which she placed all her hope, expecting to have a fine brood of
chickens, and to make a good profit of them. And having one day to go
out on some business, she called her son, and said to him, "My pretty
son of your own mother, listen to what I say: keep your eye upon the
hen, and if she should get up to scratch and pick, look sharp and drive
her back to the nest; for otherwise the eggs will grow cold, and then
we shall have neither eggs nor chickens."

"Leave it to me," replied Vardiello, "you are not speaking to deaf
ears."

"One thing more," said the mother; "look-ye, my blessed son, in yon
cupboard is a pot full of certain poisonous things; take care that ugly
Sin does not tempt you to touch them, for they would make you stretch
your legs in a trice."

"Heaven forbid!" replied Vardiello, "poison indeed will not tempt me;
but you have done wisely to give me the warning; for if I had got at
it, I should certainly have eaten it all up."

Thereupon the mother went out, but Vardiello stayed behind; and, in
order to lose no time, he went into the garden to dig holes, which he
covered with boughs and earth, to catch the little thieves who come to
steal the fruit. And as he was in the midst of his work, he saw the hen
come running out of the room, whereupon he began to cry, "Hish, hish!
this way, that way!" But the hen did not stir a foot; and Vardiello,
seeing that she had something of the donkey in her, after crying "Hish,
hish," began to stamp with his feet; and after stamping with his feet
to throw his cap at her, and after the cap a cudgel which hit her just
upon the pate, and made her quickly stretch her legs.

When Vardiello saw this sad accident, he bethought himself how to
remedy the evil; and making a virtue of necessity, in order to prevent
the eggs growing cold, he set himself down upon the nest; but in doing
so, he gave the eggs an unlucky blow, and quickly made an omelet of
them. In despair at what he had done, he was on the point of knocking
his head against the wall; at last, however, as all grief turns to
hunger, feeling his stomach begin to grumble, he resolved to eat up the
hen. So he plucked her, and sticking her upon a spit, he made a great
fire, and set to work to roast her. And when she was cooked, Vardiello,
to do everything in due order, spread a clean cloth upon an old chest;
and then, taking a flagon, he went down into the cellar to draw some
wine. But just as he was in the midst of drawing the wine, he heard a
noise, a disturbance, an uproar in the house, which seemed like the
clattering of horses' hoofs. Whereat starting up in alarm and turning
his eyes, he saw a big tom-cat, which had run off with the hen, spit
and all; and another cat chasing after him, mewing, and crying out for
a part.

Vardiello, in order to set this mishap to rights, darted upon the cat
like an unchained lion, and in his haste he left the tap of the barrel
running. And after chasing the cat through every hole and corner of the
house, he recovered the hen; but the cask had meanwhile all run out;
and when Vardiello returned, and saw the wine running about, he let the
cask of his soul empty itself through the tap-holes of his eyes. But at
last judgment came to his aid and he hit upon a plan to remedy the
mischief, and prevent his mother's finding out what had happened; so,
taking a sack of flour, filled full to the mouth, he sprinkled it over
the wine on the floor.

But when he meanwhile reckoned up on his fingers all the disasters he
had met with, and thought to himself that, from the number of fooleries
he had committed, he must have lost the game in the good graces of
Grannonia, he resolved in his heart not to let his mother see him again
alive. So thrusting his hand into the jar of pickled walnuts which his
mother had said contained poison, he never stopped eating until he came
to the bottom; and when he had right well filled his stomach he went
and hid himself in the oven.

In the meanwhile his mother returned, and stood knocking for a long
time at the door; but at last, seeing that no one came, she gave it a
kick; and going in, she called her son at the top of her voice. But as
nobody answered, she imagined that some mischief must have happened,
and with increased lamentation she went on crying louder and louder,
"Vardiello! Vardiello! are you deaf, that you don't hear? Have you the
cramp, that you don't run? Have you the pip, that you don't answer?
Where are you, you rogue? Where are you hidden, you naughty fellow?"

Vardiello, on hearing all this hubbub and abuse, cried out at last with
a piteous voice, "Here I am! here I am in the oven; but you will never
see me again, mother!"

"Why so?" said the poor mother.

"Because I am poisoned," replied the son.

"Alas! alas!" cried Grannonia, "how came you to do that? What cause
have you had to commit this homicide? And who has given you poison?"
Then Vardiello told her, one after another, all the pretty things he
had done; on which account he wished to die and not to remain any
longer a laughing-stock in the world.

The poor woman, on hearing all this, was miserable and wretched, and
she had enough to do and to say to drive this melancholy whimsey out of
Vardiello's head. And being infatuated and dotingly fond of him, she
gave him some nice sweetmeats, and so put the affair of the pickled
walnuts out of his head, and convinced him that they were not poison,
but good and comforting to the stomach. And having thus pacified him
with cheering words, and showered on him a thousand caresses, she drew
him out of the oven. Then giving him a fine piece of cloth, she bade
him go and sell it, but cautioning him not to do business with folks of
too many words.

"Tut, tut!" said Vardiello, "let me alone; I know what I'm about, never
fear." So saying, he took the cloth, and went his way through the city
of Naples, crying, "Cloth! cloth!" But whenever any one asked him,
"What cloth have you there?" he replied, "You are no customer for me;
you are a man of too many words." And when another said to him, "How do
you sell your cloth?" he called him a chatterbox, who deafened him with
his noise. At length he chanced to espy, in the courtyard of a house
which was deserted on account of the Monaciello, a plaster statue; and
being tired out, and wearied with going about and about, he sat himself
down on a bench. But not seeing any one astir in the house, which
looked like a sacked village, he was lost in amazement, and said to the
statue: "Tell me, comrade, does no one live in this house?" Vardiello
waited awhile; but as the statue gave no answer, he thought this surely
was a man of few words. So he said, "Friend, will you buy my cloth?
I'll sell it you cheap." And seeing that the statue still remained
dumb, he exclaimed, "Faith, then, I've found my man at last! There,
take the cloth, examine it, and give me what you will; to-morrow I'll
return for the money."

So saying Vardiello left the cloth on the spot where he had been
sitting, and the first mother's son who passed that way found the prize
and carried it off.

When Vardiello returned home without the cloth, and told his mother all
that had happened, she wellnigh swooned away, and said to him, "When
will you put that headpiece of yours in order? See now what tricks you
have played me--only think! But I am myself to blame, for being too
tender-hearted, instead of having given you a good beating at first;
and now I perceive that a pitiful doctor only makes the wound
incurable. But you'll go on with your pranks until at last we come to a
serious falling-out, and then there will be a long reckoning, my lad!"

"Softly, mother," replied Vardiello, "matters are not so bad as they
seem; do you want more than crown-pieces brand new from the mint? Do
you think me a fool, and that I don't know what I am about? To-morrow
is not yet here. Wait awhile, and you shall see whether I know how to
fit a handle to a shovel."

The next morning, as soon as the shades of Night, pursued by the
constables of the Sun, had fled the country, Vardiello repaired to the
courtyard where the statue stood, and said, "Good-day, friend! Can you
give me those few pence you owe me? Come, quick, pay me for the cloth!"
But when he saw that the statue remained speechless, he took up a stone
and hurled it at its breast with such force that it burst a vein, which
proved, indeed, the cure to his own malady; for some pieces of the
statue falling off, he discovered a pot full of golden crown-pieces.
Then taking it in both his hands, off he ran home, head over heels, as
far as he could scamper, crying out, "Mother, mother! see here! what a
lot of red lupins I've got. How many! how many!"

His mother, seeing the crown-pieces, and knowing very well that
Vardiello would soon make the matter public, told him to stand at the
door until the man with milk and new-made cheese came past, as she
wanted to buy a pennyworth of milk. So Vardiello, who was a great
glutton, went quickly and seated himself at the door; and his mother
showered down from the window above raisins and dried figs for more
than half an hour. Whereupon Vardiello, picking them up as fast as he
could, cried aloud, "Mother, mother! bring out some baskets; give me
some bowls! Here, quick with the tubs and buckets! for if it goes on to
rain thus we shall be rich in a trice." And when he had eaten his fill
Vardiello went up to sleep.

It happened one day that two countrymen--the food and life-blood of the
law-courts--fell out, and went to law about a gold crown-piece which
they had found on the ground. And Vardiello passing by said, "What
jackasses you are to quarrel about a red lupin like this! For my part I
don't value it at a pin's head, for I've found a whole potful of them."

When the judge heard this he opened wide his eyes and ears, and
examined Vardiello closely, asking him how, when, and where he had
found the crowns. And Vardiello replied, "I found them in a palace,
inside a dumb man, when it rained raisins and dried figs." At this the
judge stared with amazement; but instantly seeing how the matter stood,
he decreed that Vardiello should be sent to a madhouse, as the most
competent tribunal for him. Thus the stupidity of the son made the
mother rich, and the mother's wit found a remedy for the foolishness of
the son: whereby it is clearly seen that--

     "A ship when steered by a skilful hand
     Will seldom strike upon rock or sand."



V

THE FLEA

Resolutions taken without thought bring disasters without remedy. He
who behaves like a fool repents like a wise man; as happened to the
King of High-Hill, who through unexampled folly committed an act of
madness putting in jeopardy both his daughter and his honour.

Once upon a time the King of High-Hill being bitten by a flea caught
him by a wonderful feat of dexterity; and seeing how handsome and
stately he was he had not the conscience to sentence him to death. So
he put him into a bottle, and feeding him every day himself the little
animal grew at such a rate that at the end of seven months it was
necessary to shift his quarters, for he was grown bigger than a sheep.
The King then had him flayed and his skin dressed. Then he issued a
proclamation that whoever could tell what this skin was should marry
the Princess.

As soon as this decree was made known the people flocked in crowds from
all the ends of the world to try their luck. One said that it belonged
to an ape, another to a lynx, a third to a crocodile, and in short some
gave it to one animal and some to another; but they were all a hundred
miles from the truth, and not one hit the nail on the head. At last
there came to this trial an ogre who was the most ugly being in the
world, the very sight of whom would make the boldest man tremble and
quake with fear. But no sooner had he come and turned the skin round
and smelt it than he instantly guessed the truth, saying, "This skin
belongs to the king of fleas."

Now the King saw that the ogre had hit the mark; and not to break his
word he ordered his daughter Porziella to be called. Porziella had a
face like milk and roses, and was such a miracle of beauty that you
would never be tired of looking at her. And the King said to her, "My
daughter, you know who I am. I cannot go back from my promise whether a
king or a beggar. My word is given, I must keep it though my heart
should break. Who would ever have imagined that this prize would have
fallen to an ogre! But it never does to judge hastily. Have patience
then and do not oppose your father; for my heart tells me that you will
be happy, for rich treasures are often found inside a rough earthen
jar."


When Porziella heard this sad saying her eyes grew dim, her face turned
pale, her lips fell, her knees shook; and at last, bursting into tears,
she said to her father, "What crime have I committed that I should be
punished thus! How have I ever behaved badly toward you that I should
be given up to this monster. Is this, O Father, the affection you bear
to your own child? Is this the love you show to her whom you used to
call the joy of your soul? Do you drive from your sight her who is the
apple of your eye? O Father, O cruel Father! Better had it been if my
cradle had been my death-bed since I have lived to see this evil day."

Porziella was going on to say more when the King in a furious rage
exclaimed, "Stay your anger! Fair and softly, for appearances deceive.
Is it for a girl to teach her father, forsooth? Have done, I say, for
if I lay these hands upon you I'll not leave a whole bone in your skin.
Prithee, how long has a child hardly out of the nursery dared to oppose
my will? Quick then, I say, take his hand and set off with him home
this very instant, for I will not have that saucy face a minute longer
in my sight."

Poor Porziella, seeing herself thus caught in the net, with the face of
a person condemned to death, with the heart of one whose head is lying
between the axe and the block, took the hand of the ogre, who dragged
her off without any attendants to the wood where the trees made a
palace for the meadow to prevent its being discovered by the sun, and
the brooks murmured, having knocked against the stones in the dark,
while the wild beasts wandered where they liked without paying toll,
and went safely through the thicket whither no man ever came unless he
had lost his way. Upon this spot, which was as black as an unswept
chimney, stood the ogre's house ornamented all round with the bones of
the men whom he had devoured. Think but for a moment of the horror of
it to the poor girl.

But this was nothing at all in comparison with what was to come. Before
dinner she had peas and after dinner parched beans. Then the ogre went
out to hunt and returned home laden with the quarters of the men whom
he had killed, saying, "Now, wife, you cannot complain that I don't
take good care of you; here is a fine store of eatables, take and make
merry and love me well, for the sky will fall before I will let you
want for food."

Poor Porziella could not endure this horrible sight and turned her face
away. But when the ogre saw this he cried, "Ha! this is throwing
sweetmeats before swine; never mind, however, only have patience till
to-morrow morning, for I have been invited to a wild boar hunt and will
bring you home a couple of boars, and we'll make a grand feast with our
kinsfolk and celebrate the wedding." So saying he went into the forest.

Now as Porziella stood weeping at the window it chanced that an old
woman passed by who, being famished with hunger, begged some food. "Ah,
my good woman," said Porziella, "Heaven knows I am in the power of the
ogre who brings me home nothing but pieces of the men he has killed. I
pass the most miserable life possible, and yet I am the daughter of a
king and have been brought up in luxury." And so saying she began to
cry like a little girl who sees her bread and butter taken away from
her.

The old woman's heart was softened at this sight and she said to
Porziella, "Be of good heart, my pretty girl, do not spoil your beauty
with crying, for you have met with luck; I can help you to both saddle
and trappings. Listen, now. I have seven sons who, you see, are seven
giants, Mase, Nardo, Cola, Micco, Petrullo, Ascaddeo, and Ceccone, who
have more virtues that rosemary, especially Mase, for every time he
lays his ear to the ground he hears all that is passing within thirty
miles round. Nardo, every time he washes his hands, makes a great sea
of soapsuds. Every time that Cola throws a bit of iron on the ground he
makes a field of sharp razors. Whenever Micco flings down a little
stick a tangled wood springs up. If Petrullo lets fall a drop of water
it makes a terrible river. When Ascaddeo wishes a strong tower to
spring up he has only to throw a stone; and Ceccone shoots so straight
with the cross-bow that he can hit a hen's eye a mile off. Now with the
help of my sons, who are all courteous and friendly, and who will all
take compassion on your condition, I will contrive to free you from the
claws of the ogre."

"No time better than now," replied Porziella, "for that evil shadow of
a husband of mine has gone out and will not return this evening, and we
shall have time to slip off and run away."

"It cannot be this evening," replied the old woman, "for I live a long
way off; but I promise you that to-morrow morning I and my sons will
all come together and help you out of your trouble."

So saying, the old woman departed, and Porziella went to rest with a
light heart and slept soundly all night. But as soon as the birds began
to cry, "Long live the Sun," lo and behold, there was the old woman
with her seven children; and placing Porziella in the midst of them
they proceeded towards the city. But they had not gone above half a
mile when Mase put his ear to the ground and cried: "Hallo, have a
care; here's the fox. The ogre is come home. He has missed his wife and
he is hastening after us with his cap under his arm."

No sooner did Nardo hear this than he washed his hands and made a sea
of soap-suds; and when the ogre came and saw all the suds he ran home
and fetching a sack of bran he strewed it about and worked away
treading it down with his feet until at last he got over this obstacle,
though with great difficulty.

But Mase put his ear once more to the ground and exclaimed, "Look
sharp, comrade, here he comes!" Thereupon Cola flung a piece of iron on
the ground and instantly a field of razors sprang up. When the ogre saw
the path stopped he ran home again and clad himself in iron from head
to foot and then returned and got over this peril.

Then Mase, again putting his ear to the ground, cried, "Up! up! to
arms! to arms! For see here is the ogre coming at such a rate that he
is actually flying." But Micco was ready with his little stick, and in
an instant he caused a terrible wood to rise up, so thick that it was
quite impenetrable. When the ogre came to this difficult pass he laid
hold of a Carrara knife which he wore at his side, and began to cut
down the poplars and oaks and pine trees and chestnut trees, right and
left; so that with four or five strokes he had the whole forest on the
ground and got clear of it. Presently, Mase who kept his ears on the
alert like a hare, again raised his voice and cried, "Now we must be
off, for the ogre is coming like the wind and here he is at our heels."
As soon as Petrullo heard this he took water from a little fountain,
sprinkled it on the ground, and in an twinkling of an eye a large river
rose up on the spot. When the ogre saw this new obstacle, and that he
could not make holes so fast as they found bungs to stop them, he
stripped himself stark naked and swam across to the other side of the
river with his clothes upon his head.

Mase, who put his ear to every chink, heard the ogre coming and
exclaimed, "Alas! matters go ill with us now. I already hear the
clatter of the ogre's heels. We must be on our guard and ready to meet
the storm or else we are done for." "Never fear," said Ascaddeo, "I
will soon settle this ugly ragamuffin." So saying, he flung a pebble on
the ground and instantly up rose a tower in which they all took refuge
without delay, and barred the door. But when the ogre came up and saw
that they had got into so safe a place he ran home, got a
vine-dresser's ladder, and carried it back on his shoulder to the tower.

Now Mase, who kept his ears hanging down, heard at a distance the
approach of the ogre and cried, "We are now at the butt end of the
Candle of Hope. Ceccone is our last resource, for the ogre is coming
back in a terrible fury. Alas! how my heart beats, for I foresee an
evil day." "You coward," answered Ceccone, "trust to me and I will hit
him with a ball."

As Ceccone was speaking the ogre came, planted his ladder and began to
climb up; but Ceccone, taking aim at him, shot out one of his eyes and
laid him at full length on the ground, like a pear dropped from a tree.
Then he went out of the tower and cut off the ogre's head with a big
knife he carried about with him, just as if it had been new-made
cheese. Thereupon they took the head with great joy to the King, who
rejoiced at the recovery of his daughter, for he had repented a hundred
times at having given her to an ogre. And not many days after Porziella
was married to a handsome prince, and the seven sons and their mother
who had delivered her from such a wretched life were rewarded with
great riches.



VI

CENERENTOLA

In the sea of malice envy frequently gets out of her depth; and, while
she is expecting to see another drowned, she is either drowned herself,
or is dashed against a rock, as happened to some envious girls, about
whom I will tell you a story.

There once lived a Prince, who was a widower. He had an only daughter,
so dear to him that he saw with no other eyes than hers; and he kept a
governess for her, who taught her chain-work and knitting, and to make
point-lace, and showed her such affection as no words can tell. But she
was very lonely, and many a time she said to the governess, "Oh, that
you had been my mother, you who show me such kindness and love," and
she said this so often that, at last, the governess, having a bee put
into her bonnet, said to her one day, "If you will do as this foolish
head of mine advises I shall be mother to you, and you will be as dear
to me as the apple of my eye."

She was going to say more, when Zezolla, for that was the name of the
Princess, said, "Pardon me if I stop the word upon your tongue. I know
you wish me well, therefore, hush--enough. Only show me the way. Do you
write and I will subscribe." "Well, then," answered the governess,
"open your ears and listen, and you will get bread as white as the
flowers. You know well enough that your father would even coin false
money to please you, so do you entreat him when he is caressing you to
marry me and make me Princess. Then, bless your stars! you shall be the
mistress of my life."

When Zezolla heard this, every hour seemed to her a thousand years
until she had done all that her governess had advised; and, as soon as
the mourning for her mother's death was ended, she began to feel her
father's pulse, and beg him to marry the governess. At first the Prince
took it as a joke, but Zezolla went on shooting so long past the mark
that at length she hit it, and he gave way to her entreaties. So he
married the governess, and gave a great feast at the wedding.

Now, while the young folks were dancing, and Zezolla was standing at
the window of her house, a dove came flying and perched upon a wall,
and said to her, "Whenever you need anything send the request to the
Dove of the Fairies in the Island of Sardinia, and you will instantly
have what you wish."

For five or six days the new stepmother overwhelmed Zezolla with
caresses, seating her at the best place at table, giving her the
choicest morsels to eat, and clothing her in the richest apparel. But
ere long, forgetting entirely the good service she had received (woe to
him who has a bad master!), she began to bring forward six daughters of
her own, for she had never before told any one that she was a widow
with a bunch of girls; and she praised them so much, and talked her
husband over in such a fashion, that at last the stepdaughters had all
his favour, and the thought of his own child went entirely from his
heart. In short, it fared so ill with the poor girl, bad to-day and
worse to-morrow, that she was at last brought down from the royal
chamber to the kitchen, from the canopy of state to the hearth, from
splendid apparel of silks and gold to dishclouts, from the sceptre to
the spit. And not only was her condition changed, but even her name,
for, instead of Zezolla, she was now called Cenerentola.

It happened that the Prince had occasion to go to Sardinia upon affairs
of state, and, calling the six stepdaughters, he asked them, one by
one, what they would like him to bring them on his return. Then one
wished for splendid dresses, another to have head-ornaments, another
rouge for the face, another toys and trinkets: one wished for this and
one for that. At last the Prince said to his own daughter, as if in
mockery, "And what would you have, child?" "Nothing, father," she
replied, "but that you commend me to the Dove of the Fairies, and bid
her send me something; and if you forget my request, may you be unable
to stir backwards or forwards; so remember what I tell you, for it will
fare with you accordingly."

Then the Prince went his way and did his business in Sardinia, and
procured all the things that his stepdaughters had asked for; but poor
Zezolla was quite out of his thoughts. And going on board a ship he set
sail to return, but the ship could not get out of the harbour; there it
stuck fast just as if held by a sea-lamprey. The captain of the ship,
who was almost in despair and fairly tired out, laid himself down to
sleep, and in his dream he saw a fairy, who said to him, "Know you the
reason why you cannot work the ship out of port? It is because the
Prince who is on board with you has broken his promise to his daughter,
remembering every one except his own child."

Then the captain awoke and told his dream to the Prince, who, in shame
and confusion at the breach of his promise, went to the Grotto of the
Fairies, and, commending his daughter to them, asked them to send her
something. And behold, there stepped forth from the grotto a beautiful
maiden, who told him that she thanked his daughter for her kind
remembrances, and bade him tell her to be merry and of good heart out
of love to her. And thereupon she gave him a date-tree, a hoe, and a
little bucket all of gold, and a silken napkin, adding that the one was
to hoe with and the other to water the plant.

The Prince, marvelling at this present, took leave of the fairy, and
returned to his own country. And when he had given his stepdaughters
all the things they had desired, he at last gave his own daughter the
gift which the fairy had sent her. Then Zezolla, out of her wits with
joy, took the date-tree and planted it in a pretty flower-pot, hoed the
earth round it, watered it, and wiped its leaves morning and evening
with the silken napkin. In a few days it had grown as tall as a woman,
and out of it came a fairy, who said to Zezolla, "What do you wish
for?" And Zezolla replied that she wished sometimes to leave the house
without her sisters' knowledge. The fairy answered, "Whenever you
desire this, come to the flower-pot and say:

     My little Date-tree, my golden tree,
     With a golden hoe I have hoed thee,
     With a golden can I have watered thee,
     With a silken cloth I have wiped thee dry,
     Now strip thee and dress me speedily.

And when you wish to undress, change the last words and say, 'Strip me
and dress thee.'"

When the time for the feast was come, and the stepmother's daughters
appeared, dressed out so fine, all ribbons and flowers, and slippers
and shoes, sweet smells and bells, and roses and posies, Zezolla ran
quickly to the flower-pot, and no sooner had she repeated the words, as
the fairy had told her, than she saw herself arrayed like a queen,
seated upon a palfrey, and attended by twelve smart pages, all in their
best clothes. Then she went to the ball, and made the sisters envious
of this unknown beauty.

Even the young King himself was there, and as soon as he saw her he
stood magic-bound with amazement, and ordered a trusty servant to find
out who was that beautiful maiden, and where she lived. So the servant
followed in her footsteps; but when Zezolla noticed the trick she threw
on the ground a handful of crown-pieces which she had made the
date-tree give her for this purpose. Then the servant lighted his
lantern, and was so busy picking up all the crown-pieces that he forgot
to follow the palfrey; and Zezolla came home quite safely, and had
changed her clothes, as the fairy told her, before the wicked sisters
arrived, and, to vex her and make her envious, told her of all the fine
things they had seen. But the King was very angry with the servant, and
warned him not to miss finding out next time who this beautiful maiden
was, and where she dwelt.

Soon there was another feast, and again the sisters all went to it,
leaving poor Zezolla at home on the kitchen hearth. Then she ran
quickly to the date-tree, and repeated the spell, and instantly there
appeared a number of damsels, one with a looking-glass, another with a
bottle of rose-water, another with the curling-irons, another with
combs, another with pins, another with dresses, and another with capes
and collars. And they decked her out as glorious as the sun, and put
her in a coach drawn by six white horses, and attended by footmen and
pages in livery. And no sooner did she appear in the ball-room than the
hearts of the sisters were filled with amazement, and the King was
overcome with love.

When Zezolla went home the servant followed her again, but so that she
should not be caught she threw down a handful of pearls and jewels, and
the good fellow, seeing that they were not things to lose, stayed to
pick them up. So she had time to slip away and take off her fine dress
as before.

Meanwhile the servant had returned slowly to the King, who cried out
when he saw him, "By the souls of my ancestors, if you do not find out
who she is you shall have such a thrashing as was never before heard
of, and as many kicks as you have hairs in your beard!"

When the next feast was held, and the sisters were safely out of the
house, Zezolla went to the date-tree, and once again repeated the
spell. In an instant she found herself splendidly arrayed and seated in
a coach of gold, with ever so many servants around her, so that she
looked just like a queen. Again the sisters were beside themselves with
envy; but this time, when she left the ball-room, the King's servant
kept close to the coach. Zezolla, seeing that the man was ever running
by her side, cried, "Coachman, drive on quickly," and in a trice the
coach set off at such a rattling pace that she lost one of her
slippers, the prettiest thing that ever was seen. The servant being
unable to catch the coach, which flew like a bird, picked up the
slipper, and carrying it to the King told him all that happened.
Whereupon the King, taking it in his hand, said, "If the basement,
indeed, is so beautiful, what must the building be. You who until now
were the prison of a white foot are now the fetter of an unhappy heart!"

Then he made a proclamation that all the women in the country should
come to a banquet, for which the most splendid provision was made of
pies and pastries, and stews and ragouts, macaroni and
sweetmeats--enough to feed a whole army. And when all the women were
assembled, noble and ignoble, rich and poor, beautiful and ugly, the
King tried the slipper on each one of the guests to see whom it should
fit to a hair, and thus be able to discover by the help of the slipper
the maiden of whom he was in search, but not one foot could he find to
fit it. So he examined them closely whether indeed every one was there;
and the Prince confessed that he had left one daughter behind, "but,"
said he, "she is always on the hearth, and is such a graceless
simpleton that she is unworthy to sit and eat at your table." But the
King said, "Let her be the very first on the list, for so I will."

So all the guests departed--the very next day they assembled again, and
with the wicked sisters came Zezolla. When the King saw her he had his
suspicions, but said nothing. And after the feast came the trial of the
slipper, which, as soon as ever it approached Zezolla's foot, it darted
on to it of its own accord like iron flies to the magnet. Seeing this,
the King ran to her and took her in his arms, and seating her under the
royal canopy, he set the crown upon her head, whereupon all made their
obeisance and homage to her as their queen.

When the wicked sisters saw this they were full of venom and rage, and,
not having patience to look upon the object of their hatred, they
slipped quietly away on tip-toe and went home to their mother,
confessing, in spite of themselves, that--

     "He is a madman who resists the Stars."



VII

THE MERCHANT

Troubles are usually the brooms and shovels that smooth the road to a
man's good fortune, of which he little dreams. Many a man curses the
rain that falls upon his head, and knows not that it brings abundance
to drive away hunger; as is seen in the person of a young man of whom I
will tell you.

It is said that there was once a very rich merchant named Antoniello,
who had a son called Cienzo. It happened that Cienzo was one day
throwing stones on the sea-shore with the son of the King of Naples,
and by chance broke his companion's head. When he told his father,
Antoniello flew into a rage with fear of the consequences and abused
his son; but Cienzo answered, "Sir, I have always heard say that better
is the law court than the doctor in one's house. Would it not have been
worse if he had broken my head? It was he who began and provoked me. We
are but boys, and there are two sides to the quarrel. After all  tis a
first fault, and the King is a man of reason; but let the worst come to
the worst, what great harm can he do me? The wide world is one's home;
and let him who is afraid turn constable."

But Antoniello would not listen to reason. He made sure the King would
kill Cienzo for his fault and said, "Don't stand here at risk of your
life; but march off this very instant, so that nobody may hear a word,
new or old, of what you have done. A bird in the bush is better than a
bird in the cage. Here is money. Take one of the two enchanted horses I
have in the stable, and the dog which is also enchanted, and tarry no
longer here. It is better to scamper off and use your own heels than to
be touched by another's; better to throw your legs over your back than
to carry your head between two legs. If you don't take your knapsack
and be off, none of the Saints can help you!"

Then begging his father's blessing, Cienzo mounted his horse, and
tucking the enchanted dog under his arm, he went his way out of the
city. Making a winter of tears with a summer of sighs he went his way
until the evening, when he came to a wood that kept the Mule of the Sun
outside its limits, while it was amusing itself with Silence and the
Shades. An old house stood there, at the foot of a tower. Cienzo
knocked at the door of the tower; but the master, being in fear of
robbers, would not open to him, so the poor youth was obliged to remain
in the ruined old house. He turned his horse out to graze in a meadow,
and threw himself on some straw he found, with the dog by his side. But
scarcely had he closed his eyes when he was awakened by the barking of
the dog, and heard footsteps stirring in the house. Cienzo, who was
bold and venturesome, seized his sword and began to lay about him in
the dark; but perceiving that he was only striking the wind and hit no
one, he turned round again to sleep. After a few minutes he felt
himself pulled gently by the foot. He turned to lay hold again of his
cutlass, and jumping up, exclaimed, "Hollo there! you are getting too
troublesome; but leave off this sport and let's have a bout of it if
you have any pluck, for you have found the last to your shoe!"

At these words he heard a shout of laughter and then a hollow voice
saying, "Come down here and I will tell you who I am." Then Cienzo,
without losing courage, answered, "Wait awhile, I'll come." So he
groped about until at last he found a ladder which led to a cellar;
and, going down, he saw a lighted lamp, and three ghost-looking figures
who were making a piteous clamour, crying, "Alas, my beauteous
treasure, I must lose thee!"

When Cienzo saw this he began himself to cry and lament, for company's
sake; and after he had wept for some time, the Moon having now, with
the axe of her rays broken the bar of the Sky, the three figures who
were making the outcry said to Cienzo, "Take this treasure, which is
destined for thee alone, but mind and take care of it." Then they
vanished. And Cienzo, espying the sunlight through a hole in the wall,
wished to climb up again, but could not find the ladder, whereat he set
up such a cry that the master of the tower heard him and fetched a
ladder, when they discovered a great treasure. He wished to give part
of it to Cienzo, but the latter refused; and taking his dog and
mounting once more on his horse set out again on his travels.

After a while he arrived at a wild and dreary forest, so dark that it
made you shudder. There, upon the bank of a river, he found a fairy
surrounded by a band of robbers. Cienzo, seeing the wicked intention of
the robbers, seized his sword and soon made a slaughter of them. The
fairy showered thanks upon him for this brave deed done for her sake,
and invited him to her palace that she might reward him. But Cienzo
replied, "It is nothing at all; thank you kindly. Another time I will
accept the favour; but now I am in haste, on business of importance!"

So saying he took his leave; and travelling on a long way he came at
last to the palace of a King, which was all hung with mourning, so that
it made one's heart black to look at it. When Cienzo inquired the cause
of the mourning the folks answered, "A dragon with seven heads has made
his appearance in this country, the most terrible monster that ever was
seen, with the crest of a cock, the head of a cat, eyes of fire, the
mouth of a bulldog, the wings of a bat, the claws of a bear, and the
tail of a serpent. Now this dragon swallows a maiden every day, and now
the lot has fallen on Menechella, the daughter of the King. So there is
great weeping and wailing in the royal palace, since the fairest
creature in all the land is doomed to be devoured by this horrid beast."

When Cienzo heard this he stepped aside and saw Menechella pass by with
the mourning train, accompanied by the ladies of the court and all the
women of the land, wringing their hands and tearing out their hair by
handfuls, and bewailing the sad fate of the poor girl. Then the dragon
came out of the cave. But Cienzo laid hold of his sword and struck off
a head in a trice; but the dragon went and rubbed his neck on a certain
plant which grew not far off, and suddenly the head joined itself on
again, like a lizard joining itself to its tail. Cienzo, seeing this,
exclaimed, "He who dares not, wins not"; and, setting his teeth, he
struck such a furious blow that he cut off all seven heads, which flew
from the necks like peas from the pan. Whereupon he took out the
tongues, and putting them in his pocket, he flung the heads a mile
apart from the body, so that they might never come together again. Then
he sent Menechella home to her father, and went himself to repose in a
tavern.

When the King saw his daughter his delight is not to be told; and
having heard the manner in which she had been freed, he ordered a
proclamation to be instantly made, that whosoever had killed the dragon
should come and marry the Princess. Now a rascal of a country fellow,
hearing this proclamation, took the heads of the dragon, and said,
"Menechella has been saved by me; these hands have freed the land from
destruction; behold the dragon's heads, which are the proofs of my
valour; therefore recollect, every promise is a debt." As soon as the
King heard this, he lifted the crown from his own head and set it upon
the countryman's poll, who looked like a thief on the gallows.

The news of this proclamation flew through the whole country, till at
last it came to the ears of Cienzo, who said to himself, "Verily, I am
a great blockhead! I had hold of Fortune by the forelock, and I let her
escape out of my hand. Here's a man offers to give me the half of a
treasure he finds, and I care no more for it than a German for cold
water; the fairy wishes to entertain me in her palace, and I care as
little for it as an ass for music; and now that I am called to the
crown, here I stand and let a rascally thief cheat me out of my
trump-card!" So saying he took an inkstand, seized a pen, and spreading
out a sheet of paper, began to write:

"To the most beautiful jewel of women, Menechella--Having, by the
favour of Sol in Leo, saved thy life, I hear that another plumes
himself with my labours, that another claims the reward of the service
which I rendered. Thou, therefore, who wast present at the dragon's
death, canst assure the King of the truth, and prevent his allowing
another to gain this reward while I have had all the toil. For it will
be the right effect of thy fair royal grace and the merited recompense
of this strong hero's fist. In conclusion, I kiss thy delicate little
hands.

"From the Inn of the Flower-pot, Sunday."


Having written this letter, and sealed it with a wafer, he placed it in
the mouth of the enchanted dog, saying, "Run off as fast as you can and
take this to the King's daughter. Give it to no one else, but place it
in the hand of that silver-faced maiden herself."

Away ran the dog to the palace as if he were flying, and going up the
stairs he found the King, who was still paying compliments to the
country clown. When the man saw the dog with the letter in his mouth,
he ordered it to be taken from him; but the dog would not give it to
any one, and bounding up to Menechella he placed it in her hand. Then
Menechella rose from her seat, and, making a curtsey to the King, she
gave him the letter to read; and when the King had read it he ordered
that the dog should be followed to see where he went, and that his
master should be brought before him. So two of the courtiers
immediately followed the dog, until they came to the tavern, where they
found Cienzo; and, delivering the message from the King, they conducted
him to the palace, into the presence of the King. Then the King
demanded how it was that he boasted of having killed the dragon, since
the heads were brought by the man who was sitting crowned at his side.
And Cienzo answered, "That fellow deserves a pasteboard mitre rather
than a crown, since he has had the impudence to tell you a bouncing
lie. But to prove to you that I have done the deed and not this rascal,
order the heads to be produced. None of them can speak to the proof
without a tongue, and these I have brought with me as witnesses to
convince you of the truth."

So saying he pulled the tongues out of his pocket, while the countryman
was struck all of a heap, not knowing what would be the end of it; and
the more so when Menechella added, "This is the man! Ah, you dog of a
countryman, a pretty trick you have played me!" When the King heard
this, he took the crown from the head of that false loon and placed it
on that of Cienzo; and he was on the point of sending the imposter to
the galleys, but Cienzo begged the King to have mercy on him and to
confound his wickedness with courtesy. Then he married Menechella, and
the tables were spread and a royal banquet was set forth; and in the
morning they sent for Antoniello with all his family; and Antoniello
soon got into great favour with the King, and saw in the person of his
son the saying verified--

    "A straight port to a crooked ship."



VIII

GOAT-FACE

All the ill-deeds that a man commits have some colour of excuse--either
contempt which provokes, need which compels, love which blinds, or
anger which breaks the neck.  But ingratitude is a thing that has no
excuse, true or false, upon which it can fix; and it is therefore the
worst of vices, since it dries up the fountain of compassion,
extinguishes the fire of love, closes the road to benefits, and causes
vexation and repentance to spring up in the hearts of the ungrateful.
As you will see in the story which I am about to relate.

A peasant had twelve daughters, not one of whom was a head taller than
the next; for every year their mother presented him with a little girl;
so that the poor man, to support his family decently, went early every
morning as a day labourer and dug hard the whole day long. With what
his labour produced he just kept his little ones from dying of hunger.

He happened, one day, to be digging at the foot of a mountain, the spy
of other mountains, that thrust its head above the clouds to see what
they were doing up in the sky, and close to a cavern so deep and dark
that the sun was afraid to enter it. Out of this cavern there came a
green lizard as big as a crocodile; and the poor man was so terrified
that he had not the power to run away, expecting every moment the end
of his days from a gulp of that ugly animal. But the lizard,
approaching him, said, "Be not afraid, my good man, for I am not come
here to do you any harm, but to do you good."

When Masaniello (for that was the name of the labourer) heard this, he
fell on his knees and said, "Mistress What's-your-name, I am wholly in
your power. Act then worthily and have compassion on this poor trunk
that has twelve branches to support."

"It is on this very account," said the lizard, "that I am disposed to
serve you; so bring me, to-morrow morning the youngest of your
daughters; for I will rear her up like my own child, and love her as my
life."

At this the poor father was more confounded than a thief when the
stolen goods are found on his back. For, hearing the lizard ask him for
one of his daughters, and that too, the tenderest of them, he concluded
that the cloak was not without wool on it, and that she wanted the
child as a titbit to stay her appetite. Then he said to himself, "If I
give her my daughter, I give her my soul. If I refuse her, she will
take this body of mine. If I yield her, I am robbed of my heart; if I
deny her she will suck out my blood. If I consent, she takes away part
of myself; if I refuse, she takes the whole. What shall I resolve on?
What course shall I take? What expedient shall I adopt? Oh, what an ill
day's work have I made of it! What a misfortune has rained down from
heaven upon me!"

While he was speaking thus, the lizard said, "Resolve quickly and do
what I tell you; or you will leave only your rags here. For so I will
have it, and so it will be." Masaniello, hearing this decree and having
no one to whom he could appeal, returned home quite melancholy, as
yellow in the face as if he had jaundice; and his wife, seeing him
hanging his head like a sick bird and his shoulders like one that is
wounded, said to him, "What has happened to you, husband? Have you had
a quarrel with any one? Is there a warrant out against you? Or is the
ass dead?"

"Nothing of that sort," said Masaniello, "but a horned lizard has put
me into a fright, for she has threatened that if I do not bring her our
youngest daughter, she will make me suffer for it. My head is turning
like a reel. I know not what fish to take. On one side love constrains
me; on the other the burden of my family. I love Renzolla dearly, I
love my own life dearly. If I do not give the lizard this portion of my
heart, she will take the whole compass of my unfortunate body. So now,
dear wife, advise me, or I am ruined!"

When his wife heard this, she said, "Who knows, husband, but this may
be a lizard with two tails, that will make our fortune? Who knows but
this lizard may put an end to all our miseries? How often, when we
should have an eagle's sight to discern the good luck that is running
to meet us, we have a cloth before our eyes and the cramp in our hands,
when we should lay hold on it. So go, take her away, for my heart tells
me that some good fortune awaits the poor little thing!"

These words comforted Masaniello; and the next morning, as soon as the
Sun with the brush of his rays whitewashed the Sky, which the shades of
night had blackened, he took the little girl by the hand, and led her
to the cave. Then the lizard came out, and taking the child gave the
father a bag full of crowns, saying, "Go now, be happy, for Renzolla
has found both father and mother."

Masaniello, overjoyed, thanked the lizard and went home to his wife.
There was money enough for portions to all the other daughters when
they married, and even then the old folks had sauce remaining for
themselves to enable them to swallow with relish the toils of life.

Then the lizard made a most beautiful palace for Renzolla, and brought
her up in such state and magnificence as would have dazzled the eyes of
any queen. She wanted for nothing. Her food was fit for a count, her
clothing for a princess. She had a hundred maidens to wait upon her,
and with such good treatment she grew as sturdy as an oak-tree.

It happened, as the King was out hunting in those parts, that night
overtook him, and as he stood looking round, not knowing where to lay
his head, he saw a candle shining in the palace. So he sent one of his
servants, to ask the owner to give him shelter. When the servant came
to the palace, the lizard appeared before him in the shape of a
beautiful lady; who, after hearing his message, said that his master
should be a thousand times welcome, and that neither bread nor knife
should there be wanting. The King, on hearing this reply, went to the
palace and was received like a cavalier. A hundred pages went out to
meet him, so that it looked like the funeral of a rich man. A hundred
other pages brought the dishes to the table. A hundred others made a
brave noise with musical instruments. But, above all, Renzolla served
the King and handed him drink with such grace that he drank more love
than wine.

When he had thus been so royally entertained, he felt he could not live
without Renzolla; so, calling the fairy, he asked her for his wife.
Whereupon the fairy, who wished for nothing but Renzolla's good, not
only freely consented, but gave her a dowry of seven millions of gold.

The King, overjoyed at this piece of good fortune, departed with
Renzolla, who, ill-mannered and ungrateful for all the fairy had done
for her, went off with her husband without uttering one single word of
thanks. Then the fairy, beholding such ingratitude, cursed her, and
wished that her face should become like that of a she-goat; and hardly
had she uttered the words, when Renzolla's mouth stretched out, with a
beard a span long on it, her jaws shrunk, her skin hardened, her cheeks
grew hairy, and her plaited tresses turned to pointed horns.

When the poor King saw this he was thunderstruck, not knowing what had
happened that so great a beauty should be thus transformed; and, with
sighs and tears he exclaimed, "Where are the locks that bound me? Where
are the eyes that transfixed me? Must I then be the husband of a
she-goat? No, no, my heart shall not break for such a goat-face!" So
saying, as soon as they reached his palace, he put Renzolla into a
kitchen, along with a chambermaid; and gave to each of them ten bundles
of flax to spin, commanding them to have the thread ready at the end of
a week.

The maid, in obedience to the King, set about carding the flax,
preparing and putting it on the distaff, twirling her spindle, reeling
it and working away without ceasing; so that on Saturday evening her
thread was all done. But Renzolla, thinking she was still the same as
in the fairy's house, not having looked at herself in the glass, threw
the flax out of the window, saying, "A pretty thing indeed of the King
to set me such work to do! If he wants shirts let him buy them, and not
fancy that he picked me up out of the gutter. But let him remember that
I brought him home seven millions of gold, and that I am his wife and
not his servant. Methinks, too, that he is somewhat of a donkey to
treat me this way!"

Nevertheless, when Saturday morning came, seeing that the maid had spun
all her share of the flax, Renzolla was greatly afraid; so away she
went to the palace of the fairy and told her misfortune. Then the fairy
embraced her with great affection, and gave her a bag full of spun
thread, to present to the King and show him what a notable and
industrious housewife she was. Renzolla took the bag, and without
saying one word of thanks, went to the royal palace; so again the fairy
was quite angered at the conduct of the graceless girl.

When the King had taken the thread, he gave two little dogs, one to
Renzolla and one to the maid, telling them to feed and rear them. The
maid reared hers on bread crumbs and treated it like a child; but
Renzolla grumbled, saying, "A pretty thing truly! As my grandfather
used to say, Are we living under the Turks? Am I indeed to comb and
wait upon dogs?" and she flung the dog out of the window!

Some months afterwards, the King asked for the dogs; whereat Renzolla,
losing heart, ran off again to the fairy, and at the gate stood the old
man who was the porter. "Who are you," said he, "and whom do you want?"
Renzolla, hearing herself addressed in this off-hand way, replied,
"Don't you know me, you old goat-beard?"

"Why do you miscall me?" said the porter. "This is the thief accusing
the constable. I a goat-beard indeed! You are a goat-beard and a half,
and you merit it and worse for your presumption. Wait awhile, you
impudent woman; I'll enlighten you and you will see to what your airs
and impertinence have brought you!"

So saying, he ran into his room, and taking a looking-glass, set it
before Renzolla; who, when she saw her ugly, hairy visage, was like to
have died with terror. Her dismay at seeing her face so altered that
she did not know herself cannot be told. Whereupon the old man said to
her, "You ought to recollect, Renzolla, that you are a daughter of a
peasant and that it was the fairy that raised you to be a queen. But
you, rude, unmannerly, and thankless as you are, having little
gratitude for such high favours, have kept her waiting outside your
heart, without showing the slightest mark of affection. You have
brought the quarrel on yourself; see what a face you have got by it!
See to what you are brought by your ingratitude; for through the
fairy's spell you have not only changed face, but condition. But if you
will do as this white-beard advises, go and look for the fairy; throw
yourself at her feet, tear your beard, beat your breast, and ask pardon
for the ill-treatment you have shown her. She is tender-hearted and she
will be moved to pity by your misfortune."

Renzolla, who was touched to the quick, and felt that he had hit the
nail on the head, followed the old man's advice. Then the fairy
embraced and kissed her; and restoring her to her former appearance,
she clad her in a robe that was quite heavy with gold; and placing her
in a magnificent coach, accompanied with a crowd of servants, she
brought her to the King. When the King beheld her, so beautiful and
splendidly attired, he loved her as his own life; blaming himself for
all the misery he had made her endure, but excusing himself on account
of that odious goat-face which had been the cause of it. Thus Renzolla
lived happy, loving her husband, honouring the fairy, and showing
herself grateful to the old man, having learned to her cost that--

    "It is always good to be mannerly."



IX

THE ENCHANTED DOE

Great is the power of friendship, which makes us willingly bear toils
and perils to serve a friend. We value our wealth as a trifle and life
as a straw, when we can give them for a friend's sake. Fables teach us
this and history is full of instances of it; and I will give you an
example which my grandmother used to relate to me. So open your ears
and shut your mouths and hear what I shall tell you.

There was once a certain King of Long-Trellis named Giannone, who,
desiring greatly to have children, continually made prayers to the gods
that they would grant his wish; and, in order to incline them the more
to his petition, he was so charitable to beggars and pilgrims that he
shared with them all he possessed. But seeing, at last, that these
things availed him nothing; and that there was no end to putting his
hand into his pocket, he bolted fast his door, and shot with a
cross-bow at all who came near.

Now it happened one day, that a long-bearded pilgrim was passing that
way, and not knowing that the King had turned over a new leaf, or
perhaps knowing it and wishing to make him change his mind again, he
went to Giannone and begged for shelter in his house. But, with a
fierce look and terrible growl, the King said to him, "If you have no
other candle than this, you may go to bed in the dark. The kittens have
their eyes open, and I am no longer a child." And when the old man
asked what was the cause of this change, the King replied, "To further
my desire for children, I have spent and lent to all who came and all
who went, and have squandered all my treasure. At last, seeing the
beard was gone, I stopped shaving and laid aside the razor."

"If that be all," replied the pilgrim, "you may set your mind at rest,
for I promise that your wish shall forthwith be fulfilled, on pain of
losing my ears."

"Be it so," said the King, "I pledge my word that I will give you one
half of my kingdom." And the man answered, "Listen now to me--if you
wish to hit the mark, you have only to get the heart of a sea-dragon,
and have it cooked and eaten by the Queen, and you will see that what I
say will speedily come to pass."

"That hardly seems possible," said the King, "but at the worst I lose
nothing by the trial; so I must, this very moment, get the dragon's
heart."

So he sent a hundred fishermen out; and they got ready all kinds of
fishing-tackle, drag-nets, casting-nets, seine-nets, bow-nets, and
fishing-lines; and they tacked and turned and cruised in all directions
until at last they caught a dragon; then they took out its heart and
brought it to the King, who gave it to the Queen to cook and eat. And
when she had eaten it, there was great rejoicing, for the King's desire
was fulfilled and he became the father of two sons, so like the other
that nobody but the Queen could tell which was which. And the boys grew
up together in such love for one another that they could not be parted
for a moment. Their attachment was so great that the Queen began to be
jealous, at seeing that the son whom she destined to be heir to his
father, and whose name was Fonzo, testified more affection for his
brother Canneloro than he did for herself. And she knew not in what way
to remove this thorn from her eyes.

Now one day Fonzo wished to go a-hunting with his brother; so he had a
fire lighted in his chamber and began to melt lead to make bullets; and
being in want of I know not what, he went himself to look for it.
Meanwhile the Queen came in, and finding no one there but Canneloro,
she thought to put him out of the world. So stooping down, she flung
the hot bullet-mould at his face, which hit him over the brow and made
an ugly wound. She was just going to repeat the blow when Fonzo came
in; so, pretending that she was only come in to see how he was, she
gave him some caresses and went away.

Canneloro, pulling his hat down on his forehead, said nothing of his
wound to Fonzo, but stood quite quiet though he was burning with the
pain. But as soon as they had done making the balls, he told his
brother that he must leave him. Fonzo, all in amazement at this new
resolution, asked him the reason: but he replied, "Enquire no more, my
dear Fonzo, let it suffice that I am obliged to go away and part with
you, who are my heart and my soul and the breath of my body. Since it
cannot be otherwise, farewell, and keep me in remembrance." Then after
embracing one another and shedding many tears, Canneloro went to his
own room. He put on a suit of armour and a sword and armed himself from
top to toe; and, having taken a horse out of the stable, he was just
putting his foot into the stirrup when Fonzo came weeping and said,
"Since you are resolved to abandon me, you should, at least, leave me
some token of your love, to diminish my anguish for your absence."
Thereupon Canneloro struck his dagger into the ground, and instantly a
fine fountain rose up. Then said he to his twin-brother, "This is the
best memorial I can leave you. By the flowing of this fountain you will
follow the course of my life. If you see it run clear, know that my
life is likewise clear and tranquil. If it is turbid, think that I am
passing through troubles; and if it is dry, depend on it that the oil
of my life is all consumed and that I have paid the toll which belongs
to Nature!"

Then he drove his sword into the ground, and immediately a myrtle-tree
grew up, when he said, "As long as this myrtle is green, know that I
too am green as a leek. If you see it wither, think that my fortunes
are not the best in this world; but if it becomes quite dried up, you
may mourn for your Canneloro."

So saying, after embracing one another again, Canneloro set out on his
travels; journeying on and on, with many adventures which it would be
too long to recount--he at length arrived at the Kingdom of
Clear-Water, just at the time when they were holding a most splendid
tournament, the hand of the King's daughter being promised to the
victor. Here Canneloro presented himself and bore him so bravely that
he overthrew all the knights who were come from divers parts to gain a
name for themselves. Whereupon he married the Princess Fenicia, and a
great feast was made.

When Canneloro had been there some months in peace and quiet, an
unhappy fancy came into his head for going to the chase. He told it to
the King, who said to him, "Take care, my son-in-law; do not be
deluded. Be wise and keep open your eyes, for in these woods is a most
wicked ogre who changes his form every day, one time appearing like a
wolf, at another like a lion, now like a stag, now like an ass, like
one thing and now like another. By a thousand stratagems he decoys
those who are so unfortunate as to meet him into a cave, where he
devours them. So, my son, do not put your safety into peril, or you
will leave your rags there."

Canneloro, who did not know what fear was, paid no heed to the advice
of his father-in-law. As soon as the Sun with the broom of his rays had
cleared away the soot of the Night he set out for the chase; and, on
his way, he came to a wood where, beneath the awning of the leaves, the
Shades has assembled to maintain their sway, and to make a conspiracy
against the Sun. The ogre, seeing him coming, turned himself into a
handsome doe; which, as soon as Canneloro perceived he began to give
chase to her. Then the doe doubled and turned, and led him about hither
and thither at such a rate, that at last she brought him into the very
heart of the wood, where she raised such a tremendous snow-storm that
it looked as if the sky was going to fall. Canneloro, finding himself
in front of a cave, went into it to seek for shelter; and being
benumbed with the cold, he gathered some sticks which he found within
it, and pulling his steel from his pocket, he kindled a large fire. As
he was standing by the fire to dry his clothes, the doe came to the
mouth of the cave, and said, "Sir Knight, pray give me leave to warm
myself a little while, for I am shivering with the cold."

Canneloro, who was of a kindly disposition, said to her, "Draw near,
and welcome."

"I would gladly," replied the doe, "but I am afraid you would kill me."

"Fear nothing," answered Canneloro, "trust to my word."

"If you wish me to enter," rejoined the doe, "tie up those dogs, that
they may not hurt me, and tie up your horse that he may not kick me."

So Canneloro tied up his dogs and hobbled his horse, and the doe said,
"I am now half assured, but unless you bind fast your sword, I dare not
come in." Then Canneloro, who wished to become friends with the doe,
bound his sword as a countryman does, when he carries it in the city
for fear of the constables. As soon as the ogre saw Canneloro
defenceless, he re-took his own form, and laying hold on him, flung him
into a pit at the bottom of the cave, and covered it up with a
stone--to keep him to eat.

But Fonzo, who, morning and evening visited the myrtle and the
fountain, to learn news of the fate of Canneloro, finding the one
withered and the other troubled, instantly thought that his brother was
undergoing misfortunes. So, to help him, he mounted his horse without
asking leave of his father or mother; and arming himself well and
taking two enchanted dogs, he went rambling through the world. He
roamed and rambled here, there, and everywhere until, at last, he came
to Clear-Water, which he found all in mourning for the supposed death
of Canneloro. And scarcely was he come to the court, when every one,
thinking, from the likeness he bore him, that it was Canneloro,
hastened to tell Fenicia the good news, who ran leaping down the
stairs, and embracing Fonzo cried, "My husband! my heart! where have
you been all this time?"

Fonzo immediately perceived that Canneloro had come to this country and
had left it again; so he resolved to examine the matter adroitly, to
learn from the Princess's discourse where his brother might be found.
And, hearing her say that he had put himself in great danger by that
accursed hunting, especially if the cruel ogre should meet him, he at
once concluded that Canneloro must be there.

The next morning, as soon as the Sun had gone forth to give the gilded
frills to the Sky, he jumped out of bed, and neither the prayers of
Fenicia, nor the commands of the King could keep him back, but he would
go to the chase. So, mounting his horse, he went with the enchanted
dogs to the wood, where the same thing befell him that had befallen
Canneloro; and, entering the cave, he saw his brother's arms and dogs
and horse fast bound, by which he became assured of the nature of the
snare. Then the doe told him in like manner to tie his arms, dogs, and
horse, but he instantly set them upon her and they tore her to pieces.
And as he was looking about for some traces of his brother, he heard
his voice down in the pit; so, lifting up the stone, he drew out
Canneloro, with all the others whom the ogre had buried alive to
fatten. Then embracing each other with great joy, the twin-brothers
went home, where Fenicia, seeing them so much alike, did not know which
to choose for her husband, until Canneloro took off his cap and she saw
the mark of the old wound and recognised him. Fonzo stayed there a
month, taking his pleasure, and then wished to return to his own
country, and Canneloro wrote by him to his mother, bidding her lay
aside her enmity and come and visit him and partake of his greatness,
which she did. But from that time forward, he never would hear of dogs
or of hunting, recollecting the saying--

"Unhappy is he who corrects himself at his own cost."



X

PARSLEY

This is one of the stories which that good soul, my uncle's grandmother
(whom Heaven take to glory), used to tell; and, unless I have put on my
spectacles upside down, I fancy it will give you pleasure.

There was, once upon a time, a woman named Pascadozzia, and one day,
when she was standing at her window, which looked into the garden of an
ogress, she saw such a fine bed of parsley that she almost fainted away
with desire for some. So when the ogress went out she could not
restrain herself any longer, but plucked a handful of it. The ogress
came home and was going to cook her pottage when she found that some
one had been stealing the parsley, and said, "Ill luck to me, but I'll
catch this long-fingered rogue and make him repent it; I'll teach him
to his cost that every one should eat off his own platter and not
meddle with other folks' cups."

The poor woman went again and again down into the garden, until one
morning the ogress met her, and in a furious rage exclaimed, "Have I
caught you at last, you thief, you rogue; prithee, do you pay the rent
of the garden that you come in this impudent way and steal my plants?
By my faith, I'll make you do penance without sending you to Rome."

Poor Pascadozzia, in a terrible fright, began to make excuses, saying
that neither from gluttony nor the craving of hunger had she been
tempted by the devil to commit this fault, but from her fear lest her
child should be born with a crop of parsley on its face.

"Words are but wind," answered the ogress, "I am not to be caught with
such prattle; you have closed the balance-sheet of life, unless you
promise to give me the child, girl or boy, whichever it may be."

The poor woman, in order to escape the peril in which she found
herself, swore, with one hand upon the other, to keep the promise, and
so the ogress let her go free. But when the baby came it was a little
girl, so beautiful that she was a joy to look upon, who was named
Parsley. The little girl grew from day to day until, when she was seven
years old, her mother sent her to school, and every time she went along
the street and met the ogress the old woman said to her, "Tell your
mother to remember her promise." And she went on repeating this message
so often that the poor mother, having no longer patience to listen to
the refrain, said one day to Parsley, "If you meet the old woman as
usual, and she reminds you of the hateful promise, answer her,  Take
it.'"

When Parsley, who dreamt of no ill, met the ogress again, and heard her
repeat the same words, she answered innocently as her mother had told
her, whereupon the ogress, seizing her by her hair, carried her off to
a wood which the horses of the Sun never entered, not having paid the
toll to the pastures of those Shades. Then she put the poor girl into a
tower which she caused to arise by her art, having neither gate nor
ladder, but only a little window through which she ascended and
descended by means of Parsley's hair, which was very long, just as
sailors climb up and down the mast of a ship.

Now it happened one day, when the ogress had left the tower, that
Parsley put her head out of the little window and let loose her tresses
in the sun, and the son of a Prince passing by saw those two golden
banners which invited all souls to enlist under the standard of Beauty,
and, beholding with amazement, in the midst of those gleaming waves, a
face that enchanted all hearts, he fell desperately in love with such
wonderful beauty; and, sending her a memorial of sighs, she decreed to
receive him into favour. She told him her troubles, and implored him to
rescue her. But a gossip of the ogress, who was for ever prying into
things that did not concern her, and poking her nose into every corner,
overheard the secret, and told the wicked woman to be on the look-out,
for Parsley had been seen talking with a certain youth, and she had her
suspicions. The ogress thanked the gossip for the information, and said
that she would take good care to stop up the road. As to Parsley, it
was, moreover, impossible for her to escape, as she had laid a spell
upon her, so that unless she had in her hand the three gall-nuts which
were in a rafter in the kitchen it would be labour lost to attempt to
get away.

Whilst they were thus talking together, Parsley, who stood with her
ears wide open and had some suspicion of the gossip, overheard all that
had passed. And when Night had spread out her black garments to keep
them from the moth, and the Prince had come as they had appointed, she
let fall her hair; he seized it with both hands, and cried, "Draw up."
When he was drawn up she made him first climb on to the rafters and
find the gall-nuts, knowing well what effect they would have, as she
had been enchanted by the ogress. Then, having made a rope-ladder, they
both descended to the ground, took to their heels, and ran off towards
the city. But the gossip, happening to see them come out, set up a loud
"Halloo," and began to shout and make such a noise that the ogress
awoke, and, seeing that Parsley had run away, she descended by the same
ladder, which was still fastened to the window, and set off after the
couple, who, when they saw her coming at their heels faster than a
horse let loose, gave themselves up for lost. But Parsley, recollecting
the gall-nuts, quickly threw one of the ground, and lo, instantly a
Corsican bulldog started up--O, mother, such a terrible beast!--which,
with open jaws and barking loud, flew at the ogress as if to swallow
her at a mouthful. But the old woman, who was more cunning and spiteful
than ever, put her hand into her pocket, and pulling out a piece of
bread gave it to the dog, which made him hang his tail and allay his
fury.

Then she turned to run after the fugitives again, but Parsley, seeing
her approach, threw the second gall-nut on the ground, and lo, a fierce
lion arose, who, lashing the earth with his tail, and shaking his mane
and opening wide his jaws a yard apart, was just preparing to make a
slaughter of the ogress, when, turning quickly back, she stripped the
skin off an ass which was grazing in the middle of a meadow and ran at
the lion, who, fancying it a real jackass, was so frightened that he
bounded away as fast as he could.

The ogress having leaped over this second ditch turned again to pursue
the poor lovers, who, hearing the clatter of her heels, and seeing
clouds of dust that rose up to the sky, knew that she was coming again.
But the old woman, who was every moment in dread lest the lion should
pursue her, had not taken off the ass's skin, and when Parsley now
threw down the third gall-nut there sprang up a wolf, who, without
giving the ogress time to play any new trick, gobbled her up just as
she was in the shape of a jackass. So Parsley and the Prince, now freed
from danger, went their way leisurely and quietly to the Prince's
kingdom, where, with his father's free consent, they were married.
Thus, after all these storms of fate, they experienced the truth that--

     "One hour in port, the sailor, freed from fears,
      Forgets the tempests of a hundred years."



XI

THE THREE SISTERS

It is a great truth that from the same wood are formed the statues of
idols and the rafters of gallows, kings' thrones and cobblers' stalls;
and another strange thing is that from the same rags are made the paper
on which the wisdom of sages is recorded, and the crown which is placed
on the head of a fool. The same, too, may be said of children: one
daughter is good and another bad; one idle, another a good housewife;
one fair, another ugly; one spiteful, another kind; one unfortunate,
another born to good luck, and who being all of one family ought to be
of one nature. But leaving this subject to those who know more about
it, I will merely give you an example in the story of the three
daughters of the same mother, wherein you will see the difference of
manners which brought the wicked daughters into the ditch and the good
daughter to the top of the Wheel of Fortune.

There was at one time a woman who had three daughters, two of whom were
so unlucky that nothing ever succeeded with them, all their projects
went wrong, all their hopes were turned to chaff. But the youngest, who
was named Nella, was born to good luck, and I verily believe that at
her birth all things conspired to bestow on her the best and choicest
gifts in their power. The Sky gave her the perfection of its light;
Venus, matchless beauty of form; Love, the first dart of his power;
Nature, the flower of manners. She never set about any work that it did
not go off to a nicety; she never took anything in hand that it did not
succeed to a hair; she never stood up to dance, that she did not sit
down with applause. On which account she was envied by her jealous
sisters and yet not so much as she was loved and wished well to by all
others; as greatly as her sisters desired to put her underground, so
much more did other folks carry her on the palms of their hands.

Now there was in that country an enchanted Prince who was so attracted
by her beauty that he secretly married her. And in order that they
might enjoy one another's company without exciting the suspicion of the
mother, who was a wicked woman, the Prince made a crystal passage which
led from the royal palace directly into Nella's apartment, although it
was eight miles distant. Then he gave her a certain powder saying,
"Every time you wish to see me throw a little of this powder into the
fire, and instantly I will come through this passage as quick as a
bird, running along the crystal road to gaze upon this face of silver."

Having arranged it thus, not a night passed that the Prince did not go
in and out, backwards and forwards, along the crystal passage, until at
last the sisters, who were spying the actions of Nella, found out the
secret and laid a plan to put a stop to the sport. And in order to cut
the thread at once, they went and broke the passage here and there; so
that, when the unhappy girl threw the powder into the fire, to give the
signal to her husband, the Prince, who used always to come running in
furious haste, hurt himself in such a manner against the broken crystal
that it was truly a pitiable sight to see. And being unable to pass
further on he turned back all cut and slashed like a Dutchman's
breeches. Then he sent for all the doctors in the town; but as the
crystal was enchanted the wounds were mortal, and no human remedy
availed. When the King saw this, despairing of his son's condition, he
sent out a proclamation that whoever would cure the wounds of the
Prince--if a woman she should have him for a husband--if a man he
should have half his kingdom.

Now when Nella, who was pining away from the loss of the Prince, heard
this she dyed her face, disguised herself, and unknown to her sisters
she left home to go to see him before his death. But as by this time
the Sun's gilded ball with which he plays in the Fields of Heaven, was
running towards the west, night overtook her in a wood close to the
house of an ogre, where, in order to get out of the way of danger, she
climbed up into a tree. Meanwhile the ogre and his wife were sitting at
table with the windows open in order to enjoy the fresh air while they
ate; as soon as they had emptied their cups and put out the lamps they
began to chat of one thing and another, so that Nella, who was as near
to them as the mouth to the nose, heard every word they spoke.

Among other things the ogress said to her husband, "My pretty
Hairy-Hide, tell me what news; what do they say abroad in the world?"
And he answered, "Trust me, there is no hand's breadth clean;
everything's going topsy-turvy and awry." "But what is it?" replied his
wife. "Why I could tell pretty stories of all the confusion that is
going on," replied the ogre, "for one hears things that are enough to
drive one mad, such as buffoons rewarded with gifts, rogues esteemed,
cowards honoured, robbers protected, and honest men little thought of.
But, as these things only vex one, I will merely tell you what has
befallen the King's son. He had made a crystal path along which he used
to go to visit a pretty lass; but by some means or other, I know not
how, all the road has been broken; and as he was going along the
passage as usual, he has wounded himself in such a manner that before
he can stop the leak the whole conduit of his life will run out. The
King has indeed issued a proclamation with great promises to whoever
cures his son; but it is all labour lost, and the best he can do is
quickly to get ready mourning and prepare the funeral."

When Nella heard the cause of the Prince's illness she sobbed and wept
bitterly and said to herself, "Who is the wicked soul who has broken
the passage and caused so much sorrow?" But as the ogress now went on
speaking Nella was as silent as a mouse and listened.

"And is it possible," said the ogress, "that the world is lost to this
poor Prince, and that no remedy can be found for his malady?"

"Hark-ye, Granny," replied the ogre, "the doctors are not called upon
to find remedies that may pass the bounds of nature. This is not a
fever that will yield to medicine and diet, much less are these
ordinary wounds which require lint and oil; for the charm that was on
the broken glass produces the same effect as onion juice does on the
iron heads of arrows, which makes the wound incurable. There is one
thing only that could save his life, but don't ask me to tell it to
you, for it is a thing of importance."

"Do tell me, dear old Long-tusk," cried the ogress; "tell me, if you
would not see me die."

"Well then," said the ogre, "I will tell you provided you promise me
not to confide it to any living soul, for it would be the ruin of our
house and the destruction of our lives."

"Fear nothing, my dear, sweet little husband," replied the ogress; "for
you shall sooner see pigs with horns, apes with tails, moles with eyes,
than a single word shall pass my lips." And so saying, she put one hand
upon the other and swore to it.

"You must know then," said the ogre, "that there is nothing under the
sky nor above the ground that can save the Prince from the snares of
death, but our fat. If his wounds are anointed with this his soul will
be arrested which is just at the point of leaving the dwelling of his
body."

Nella, who overheard all that passed, gave time to Time to let them
finish their chat; and then, getting down from the tree and taking
heart, she knocked at the ogre's door crying, "Ah! my good masters, I
pray you for charity, alms, some sign of compassion. Have a little pity
on a poor, miserable, wretched creature who is banished by fate far
from her own country and deprived of all human aid, who has been
overtaken by night in this wood and is dying of cold and hunger." And
crying thus, she went on knocking and knocking at the door.

Upon hearing this deafening noise, the ogress was going to throw her
half a loaf and send her away. But the ogre, who was more greedy of
flesh than the squirrel is of nuts, the bear of honey, the cat of fish,
the sheep of salt, or the ass of bran, said to his wife, "Let the poor
creature come in, for if she sleeps in the fields, who knows but she
may be eaten up by some wolf." In short, he talked so much that his
wife at length opened the door for Nella; whilst with all his pretended
charity he was all the time reckoning on making four mouthfuls of her.
But the glutton counts one way and the host another; for the ogre and
his wife drank till they were fairly tipsy. When they lay down to sleep
Nella took a knife from a cupboard and made a hash of them in a trice.
Then she put all the fat into a phial, went straight to the court,
where, presenting herself before the King, she offered to cure the
Prince. At this the King was overjoyed and led her to the chamber of
his son, and no sooner had she anointed him well with the fat than the
wound closed in a moment just as if she had thrown water on the fire,
and he became sound as a fish.

When the King saw this, he said to his son, "This good woman deserves
the reward promised by the proclamation and that you should marry her."
But the Prince replied, "It is hopeless, for I have no store-room full
of hearts in my body to share among so many; my heart is already
disposed of, and another woman is already the mistress of it." Nella,
hearing this, replied, "You should no longer think of her who has been
the cause of all your misfortune." "My misfortune has been brought on
me by her sisters," replied the Prince, "and they shall repent it."
"Then do you really love her?" said Nella. And the Prince replied,
"More than my own life." "Embrace me then," said Nella, "for I am the
fire of your heart." But the Prince seeing the dark hue of her face
answered, "I would sooner take you for the coal than the fire, so keep
off--don't blacken me." Whereupon Nella, perceiving that he did not
know her, called for a basin of clean water and washed her face. As
soon as the cloud of soot was removed the sun shone forth; and the
Prince, recognising her, pressed her to his heart and acknowledged her
for his wife. Then he had her sisters thrown into an oven, thus proving
the truth of the old saying--

     "No evil ever went without punishment."



XII

VIOLET

Envy is a wind which blows with such violence, that it throws down the
props of the reputation of good men, and levels with the ground the
crops of good fortune. But, very often, as a punishment from Heaven,
when this envious blast seems as if it would cast a person flat on the
ground, it aids him instead of attain the happiness he is expecting
sooner even than he expected: as you will hear in the story which I
shall now tell you.

There was once upon a time a good sort of man named Cola Aniello, who
had three daughters, Rose, Pink, and Violet, the last of whom was so
beautiful that her very look was a syrup of love, which cured the
hearts of beholders of all unhappiness. The King's son was burning with
love of her, and every time he passed by the little cottage where these
three sisters sat at work, he took off his cap and said, "Good-day,
good-day, Violet," and she replied, "Good-day, King's son! I know more
than you." At these words her sisters grumbled and murmured, saying,
"You are an ill-bred creature and will make the Prince in a fine rage."
But as Violet paid no heed to what they said, they made a spiteful
complaint of her to her father, telling him that she was too bold and
forward; and that she answered the Prince without any respect, as if
she were just as good as he; and that, some day or other, she would get
into trouble and suffer the just punishment of her offence. So Cola
Aniello, who was a prudent man, in order to prevent any mischief, sent
Violet to stay with an aunt, to be set to work.

Now the Prince, when he passed by the house as usual, no longer seeing
the object of his love, was for some days like a nightingale that has
lost her young ones from her nest, and goes from branch to branch
wailing and lamenting her loss; but he put his ear so often to the
chink that at last he discovered where Violet lived. Then he went to
the aunt, and said to her, "Madam, you know who I am, and what power I
have; so, between ourselves, do me a favour and then ask for whatever
you wish." "If I can do anything to serve you," replied the old woman,
"I am entirely at your command." "I ask nothing of you," said the
Prince, "but to let me give Violet a kiss." "If that's all," answered
the old woman, "go and hide yourself in the room downstairs in the
garden, and I will find some pretence or another for sending Violet to
you."

As soon as the Prince heard this, he stole into the room without loss
of time; and the old woman, pretending that she wanted to cut a piece
of cloth, said to her niece, "Violet, if you love me, go down and fetch
me the yard-measure." So Violet went, as her aunt bade her, but when
she came to the room she perceived the ambush, and, taking the
yard-measure, she slipped out of the room as nimbly as a cat, leaving
the Prince with his nose made long out of pure shame and bursting with
vexation.

When the old woman saw Violet come running so fast, she suspected that
the trick had not succeeded; so presently after, she said to the girl,
"Go downstairs, niece, and fetch me the ball of thread that is on the
top shelf in the cupboard." So Violet ran, and taking the thread
slipped like an eel out of the hands of the Prince. But after a little
while the old woman said again, "Violet, my dear, if you do not go
downstairs and fetch me the scissors, I cannot get on at all." Then
Violet went down again, but she sprang as vigorously as a dog out of
the trap, and when she came upstairs she took the scissors and cut off
one of her aunt's ears, saying, "Take that, madam, as a reward for your
pains--every deed deserves its need. If I don't cut off your nose, it
is only that you may smell the bad odour of your reputation." So
saying, she went her way home with a hop, skip, and jump, leaving her
aunt eased of one ear and the Prince full of Let-me-alone.

Not long afterwards, the Prince again passed by the house of Violet's
father; and, seeing her at the window where she used to stand, he began
his old tune, "Good-day, good-day, Violet!" Whereupon she answered as
quickly as a good parish-clerk, "Good-day, King's son! I know more than
you." But Violet's sisters could no longer bear this behaviour, and
they plotted together how to get rid of her. Now, one of the windows
looked into the garden of an ogre, so they proposed to drive the poor
girl away through this; and letting fall from it a skein of thread with
which they were working a door-curtain for the queen, they cried,
"Alas! alas! we are ruined and shall not be able to finish the work in
time, if Violet, who is the smallest and lightest of us, does not let
herself down by a cord and pick up the thread that has fallen."

Violet could not endure to see her sisters grieving thus, and instantly
offered to go down; so, tying a cord to her, they lowered her into the
garden. But no sooner did she reach the ground than they let go the
rope. It happened that just at that time the ogre came out to look at
his garden, and having caught cold from the dampness of the ground, he
gave such a tremendous sneeze, with such a noise and explosion, that
Violet screamed out with terror, "Oh, mother, help me!" Thereupon the
ogre looked round and seeing the beautiful maiden behind him, he
received her with the greatest care and affection; and treating her as
his own daughter, he gave her in charge of three fairies, bidding them
take care of her, and rear her up on cherries.

The Prince no longer seeing Violet, and hearing no news of her, good or
bad, fell into such grief that his eyes became swollen, his face became
pale as ashes, his lips livid; and he neither ate a morsel to get flesh
on his body, nor slept a wink to get any rest to his mind. But trying
all possible means and offering large rewards, he went about spying and
inquiring everywhere until, at last, he discovered where Violet was.
Then he sent for the ogre and told him that, finding himself ill (as he
might see was the case) he begged of him permission to spend a single
day and night in his garden, adding that a small chamber would suffice
for him to repose in. Now, as the ogre was a subject of the Prince's
father he could not refuse him this trifling pleasure; so he offered
him all the rooms in his house; if one was not enough, and his very
life itself. The Prince thanked him, and chose a room which by good
luck was near to Violet's; and, as soon as Night came out to play games
with the Stars, the Prince, finding that Violet had left her door open,
as it was summertime and the place was safe, stole softly into her
room, and taking Violet's arm he gave her two pinches. Then she awoke
and exclaimed, "Oh, father, father, what a quantity of fleas!" So she
went to another bed and the Prince did the same again and she cried out
as before. Then she changed first the mattress and then the sheet; and
so the sport went on the whole night long, until the Dawn, having
brought the news that the Sun was alive, the mourning that was hung
round the sky was all removed.

As soon as it was day, the Prince, passing by that house, and seeing
the maiden at the door, said, as he was wont to do, "Good-day,
good-day, Violet!" and when Violet replied, "Good-day, King's son! I
know more than you!" the Prince answered, "Oh, father, father, what a
quantity of fleas!"

The instant Violet felt this shot she guessed at once that the Prince
had been the cause of her annoyance in the past night; so off she ran
and told it to the fairies. "If it be he," said the fairies, "we will
soon give him tit for tat and as good in return. If this dog has bitten
you, we will manage to get a hair from him. He has give you one, we
will give him back one and a half. Only get the ogre to make you a pair
of slippers covered with little bells, and leave the rest to us. We
will pay him in good coin."

Violet, who was eager to be revenged, instantly got the ogre to make
the slippers for her; and, waiting till the Sky, like a Genoese woman,
had wrapped the black taffety round her face, they went, all four
together, to the house of the Prince, where the fairies and Violet hid
themselves in the chamber. And as soon as ever the Prince had closed
his eyes the fairies made a great noise and racket, and Violet began to
stamp with her feet at such a rate that, what with the clatter of her
heels and the jingling of her bells, the Prince awoke in great terror
and cried out, "Oh, mother, mother, help me!" And after repeating this
two or three times, they slipped away home.

The next morning the Prince went to take a walk in the garden, for he
could not live a moment without the sight of Violet, who was a pink of
pinks. And seeing her standing at the door, he said, "Good-day,
good-day, Violet!" And Violet answered, "Good-day, King's son! I know
more than you!" Then the Prince said, "Oh, father, father, what a
quantity of fleas!" But Violet replied, "Oh, mother, mother, help me!"

When the Prince heard this, he said to Violet, "You have won--your wits
are better than mine. I yield--you have conquered. And now that I see
you really know more than I do, I will marry you without more ado." So
he called the ogre and asked her of him for his wife; but the ogre said
it was not his affair, for he had learned that very morning that Violet
was the daughter of Cola Aniello. So the Prince ordered her father to
be called and told him of the good fortune that was in store for his
daughter; whereupon the marriage feast was celebrated with great joy,
and the truth of the saying was seen that--

     "A fair maiden soon gets wed."



XIII

PIPPO

Ingratitude is a nail, which, driven into the tree of courtesy, causes
it to wither. It is a broken channel by which the foundations of
affection are undermined; and a lump of soot, which, falling into the
dish of friendship, destroys its scent and savour--as is seen in daily
instances, and, amongst others, in the story which I will now tell you.

There was one time in my dear city of Naples an old man who was as poor
as poor could be. He was so wretched, so bare, so light, and with not a
farthing in his pocket, that he went naked as a flea. And being about
to shake out the bags of life, he called to him his sons, Oratiello and
Pippo, and said to them, "I am now called upon by the tenor of my bill
to pay the debt I owe to Nature. Believe me, I should feel great
pleasure in quitting this abode of misery, this den of woes, but that I
leave you here behind me--a pair of miserable fellows, as big as a
church, without a stitch upon your backs, as clean as a barber's basin,
as nimble as a serjeant, as dry as a plum-stone, without so much as a
fly can carry upon its foot; so that, were you to run a hundred miles,
not a farthing would drop from you. My ill-fortune has indeed brought
me to such beggary that I lead the life of a dog, for I have all along,
as well you know, gaped with hunger and gone to bed without a candle.
Nevertheless, now that I am a-dying, I wish to leave you some token of
my love. So do you, Oratiello, who are my first-born, take the sieve
that hangs yonder against the wall, with which you can earn your bread;
and do you, little fellow, take the cat and remember your daddy!" So
saying, he began to whimper; and presently after said, "God be with
you--for it is night!"

Oratiello had his father buried by charity; and then took the sieve and
went riddling here, there, and everywhere to gain a livelihood; and the
more he riddled, the more he earned. But Pippo, taking the cat, said,
"Only see now what a pretty legacy my father has left me! I, who am not
able to support myself, must now provide for two. Whoever beheld so
miserable an inheritance?" Then the cat, who overheard this
lamentation, said to him, "You are grieving without need, and have more
luck than sense. You little know the good fortune in store for you; and
that I am able to make you rich if I set about it." When Pippo had
heard this, he thanked Her Pussyship, stroked her three or four times
on the back, and commended himself warmly to her. So the cat took
compassion on poor Pippo; and, every morning, when the Sun, with the
bait of light on his golden hook, fishes for the shakes of Night, she
betook herself to the shore, and catching a goodly grey mullet or a
fine dory, she carried it to the King and said, "My Lord Pippo, your
Majesty's most humble slave, sends you this fish with all reverence,
and says,  A small present to a great lord.'" Then the King, with a
joyful face, as one usually shows to those who bring a gift, answered
the cat, "Tell this lord, whom I do not know, that I thank him
heartily."

Again, the cat would run to the marshes or the fields, and when the
fowlers had brought down a blackbird, a snipe, or a lark, she caught it
up and presented it to the King with the same message. She repeated
this trick again and again, until one morning the King said to her, "I
feel infinitely obliged to this Lord Pippo, and am desirous of knowing
him, that I may make a return for the kindness he has shown me." And
the cat replied, "The desire of my Lord Pippo is to give his life for
your Majesty's crown; and tomorrow morning, without fail, as soon as
the Sun has set fire to the stubble of the fields of air, he will come
and pay his respects to you."

So when the morning came, the cat went to the King, and said to him:
"Sire, my Lord Pippo sends to excuse himself for not coming, as last
night some of his servants robbed him and ran off, and have not left
him a single shirt to his back." When the King heard this, he instantly
commanded his retainers to take out of his own wardrobe a quantity of
clothes and linen, and sent them to Pippo; and, before two hours had
passed, Pippo went to the palace, conducted by the cat, where he
received a thousand compliments from the King, who made him sit beside
himself, and gave him a banquet that would amaze you.

While they were eating, Pippo from time to time turned to the cat and
said to her, "My pretty puss, pray take care that those rags don't slip
through our fingers." Then the cat answered, "Be quiet, be quiet; don't
be talking of these beggarly things." The King, wishing to know the
subject of their talk, the cat made answer that Pippo had taken a fancy
to a small lemon; whereupon the King instantly sent out to the garden
for a basketful. But Pippo returned to the same tune about the old
coats and shirts, and the cat again told him to hold his tongue. Then
the King once more asked what was the matter, and the cat had another
excuse to make amends for Pippo's rudeness.

At last, when they had eaten and conversed for some time about one
thing and another, Pippo took his leave; and the cat stayed with the
King, describing the worth, the wisdom, and the judgment of Pippo; and,
above all, the great wealth he had in the plains of Rome and Lombardy,
which well entitled him to marry even into the family of a crowned
King. Then the King asked what might be his fortune; and the cat
replied that no one could ever count the moveables, the fixtures, and
the household furniture of this rich man, who did not even know what he
possessed. If the King wished to be informed of it, he had only to send
messengers with the cat, and she would prove to him that there was no
wealth in the world equal to his.

Then the King called some trusty persons, and commanded them to inform
themselves minutely of the truth; so they followed in the footsteps of
the cat, who, as soon as they had passed the frontier of the kingdom,
from time to time ran on before, under the pretext of providing
refreshments for them on the road. Whenever she met a flock of sheep, a
herd of cows, a troop of horses, or a drove of pigs, she would say to
the herdsmen and keepers, "Ho! have a care! A troop of robbers is
coming to carry off everything in the country. So if you wish to escape
their fury, and to have your things respected, say that they all belong
to the Lord Pippo, and not a hair will be touched."

She said the same at all the farmhouses, so that wherever the King's
people came they found the pipe tuned; for everything they met with,
they were told, belonged to the Lord Pippo. At last they were tired of
asking, and returned to the King, telling seas and mountains of the
riches of Lord Pippo. The King, hearing this report, promised the cat a
good drink if she should manage to bring about the match; and the cat,
playing the shuttle between them, at last concluded the marriage. So
Pippo came, and the King gave him his daughter and a large portion.

At the end of a month of festivities, Pippo wished to take his bride to
his estates, so the King accompanied them as far as the frontiers; and
he went on to Lombardy, where, by the cat's advice, he purchased a
large estate and became a baron.

Pippo, seeing himself now so rich, thanked the cat more than words can
express, saying that he owed his life and his greatness to her good
offices; and that the ingenuity of a cat had done more for him that the
wit of his father. Therefore, said he, she might dispose of his life
and his property as she pleased; and he gave her his word that when she
died, which he prayed might not be for a hundred years, he would have
her embalmed and put into a golden coffin, and set in his own chamber,
that he might keep her memory always before his eyes.

The cat listened to these lavish professions; and before three days she
pretended to be dead, and stretched herself at full length in the
garden. When Pippo's wife saw her, she cried out, "Oh, husband, what a
sad misfortune! The cat is dead!" "Devil die with her!" said Pippo.
"Better her than we!" "What shall we do with her?" replied the wife.
"Take her by the leg," said he, "and fling her out of the window!"

Then the cat, who heard this fine reward when she least expected it,
began to say, "Is this the return you make for my taking you from
beggary? Are these the thanks I get for freeing you from rags that you
might have hung distaffs with? Is this my reward for having put good
clothes on your back when you were a poor, starved, miserable,
tatter-shod ragamuffin? But such is the fate of him who washes an ass's
head! Go! A curse upon all I have done for you! A fine gold coffin you
had prepared for me! A fine funeral you were going to give me! Go, now!
serve, labour, toil, sweat to get this fine reward! Unhappy is he who
does a good deed in hope of a return. Well was it said by the
philosopher,  He who lies down an ass, an ass he finds himself.' But
let him who does most, expect least; smooth words and ill deeds deceive
alike both fools and wise!"

So saying, she drew her cloak about her and went her way. All that
Pippo, with the utmost humility, could do to soothe her was of no
avail. She would not return; but ran on and on without ever turning her
head about, saying--

     "Heaven keep me from the rich grown poor,
     And from the beggar who of wealth gains store."



XIV

THE SERPENT

It always happens that he who is over-curious in prying into the
affairs of other people, strikes his own foot with the axe; and the
King of Long-Furrow is a proof of this, who, by poking his nose into
secrets, brought his daughter into trouble and ruined his unhappy
son-in-law--who, in attempting to make a thrust with his head was left
with it broken.

There was once on a time a gardener's wife, who longed to have a son
more than a man in a fever for cold water, or the innkeeper for the
arrival of the mail-coach.

It chanced one day that the poor man went to the mountain to get a
faggot, and when he came home and opened it he found a pretty little
serpent among the twigs. At the sight of this, Sapatella (for that was
the name of the gardener's wife) heaved a deep sigh, and said, "Alas!
even the serpents have their little serpents; but I brought ill-luck
with me into this world." At these words, the little serpent spoke, and
said, "Well, then, since you cannot have children, take me for a child,
and you will make a good bargain, for I shall love you better than my
mother." Sapatella, hearing a serpent speak thus, nearly fainted; but,
plucking up courage, she said, "If it were for nothing else than the
affection which you offer, I am content to take you, and treat you as
if you were really my own child." So saying, she assigned him a hole in
a corner of the house for a cradle, and gave him for food a share of
what she had with the greatest goodwill in the world.

The serpent increased in size from day to day; and when he had grown
pretty big, he said to Cola Matteo, the gardener, whom he looked on as
his father, "Daddy, I want to get married." "With all my heart," said
Cola Matteo. "We must look out for another serpent like yourself, and
try to make up a match between you." "What serpent are you talking of?"
said the little serpent. "I suppose, forsooth, we are all the same with
vipers and adders! It is easy to see you are nothing but a country
bumpkin, and make a nosegay of every plant. I want the King's daughter;
so go this very instant and ask the King for her, and tell him it is a
serpent who demands her." Cola Matteo, who was a plain, straightforward
kind of man, and knew nothing about matters of this sort, went
innocently to the King and delivered his message, saying--

     "The messenger should not be beaten more
     Than are the sands upon the shore!"

"Know then that a serpent wants your daughter for his wife, and I am
come to try if we can make a match between a serpent and a dove!" The
King, who saw at a glance that he was a blockhead, to get rid of him,
said, "Go and tell the serpent that I will give him my daughter if he
turns all the fruit of this orchard into gold." And so saying, he burst
out a-laughing, and dismissed him.

When Cola Matteo went home and delivered the answer to the serpent, he
said, "Go to-morrow morning and gather up all the fruit-stones you can
find in the city, and sow them in the orchard, and you will see pearls
strung on rushes!" Cola Mateo, who was no conjurer, neither knew how to
comply nor refuse; so next morning, as soon as the Sun with his golden
broom had swept away the dirt of the Night from the fields watered by
the dawn, he took a basket on his arm and went from street to street,
picking up all the stones of peaches, plums, nectarines, apricots, and
cherries that he could find. He then went to the orchard of the palace
and sowed them, as the serpent had desired. In an instant the trees
shot up, and stems and branches, leaves, flowers, and fruit were all of
glittering gold--at the sight of which the King was in an ecstasy of
amazement, and cried aloud with joy.

But when Cola Matteo was sent by the serpent to the King, to demand the
performance of his promise, the King said, "Fair and easy, I must first
have something else if he would have my daughter; and it is that he
make all the walls and the ground of the orchard to be of precious
stones."

When the gardener told this to the serpent, he made answer, "Go
to-morrow morning and gather up all the bits of broken crockery-ware
you can find, and throw them on the walks and on the walls of the
orchard; for we will not let this small difficulty stand in our way."
As soon, therefore, as the Night, having aided the robbers, is banished
from the sky, and goes about collecting the faggots of twilight, Cola
Matteo took a basket under his arm, and went about collecting bits of
tiles, lids and bottoms of pipkins, pieces of plate and dishes, handles
of jugs, spouts of pitchers. He picked up all the spoiled, broken,
cracked lamps and all the fragments of pottery he could find in his
way. And when he had done all that the serpent had told him, you could
see the whole orchard mantled with emeralds and chalcedonies, and
coated with rubies and carbuncles, so that the lustre dazzled your
eyes. The King was struck all of a heap by the sight, and knew not what
had befallen him. But when the serpent sent again to let him know that
he was expecting the performance of his promise, the King answered,
"Oh, all that has been done is nothing, if he does not turn this palace
into gold."

When Cola Matteo told the serpent this new fancy of the King's, the
serpent said, "Go and get a bundle of herbs and rub the bottom of the
palace walls with them. We shall see if we cannot satisfy this whim!"
Away went Cola that very moment, and made a great broom of cabbages,
radishes, leeks, parsley, turnips, and carrots; and when he had rubbed
the lower part of the palace with it, instantly you might see it
shining like a golden ball on a weather-vane. And when the gardener
came again to demand the hand of the Princess, the King, seeing all his
retreat cut off, called his daughter, and said to her, "My dear
Grannonia, I have tried to get rid of a suitor who asked to marry you,
by making such conditions as seemed to me impossible. But as I am
beaten, and obliged to consent, I pray you, as you are a dutiful
daughter, to enable me to keep my word, and to be content with what
Fate wills and I am obliged to do."

"Do as you please, father," said Grannonia; "I shall not oppose a
single jot of your will!" The King, hearing this, bade Cola Matteo tell
the serpent to come.

The serpent then set out for the palace, mounted on a car all of gold
and drawn by four golden elephants. But wherever he came the people
fled away in terror, seeing such a large and frightful serpent making
his progress through the city; and when he arrived at the palace, the
courtiers all trembled like rushes and ran away; and even the very
scullions did not dare to stay in the place. The King and Queen, also,
shivering with fear, crept into a chamber. Only Grannonia stood her
ground; for though her father and her mother cried continually, "Fly,
fly, Grannonia, save yourself," she would not stir from the spot,
saying, "Why should I fly from the husband you have given me?" And when
the serpent came into the room, he took Grannonia by the waist, in his
tail, and gave her such a shower of kisses that the King writhed like a
worm, and went as pale as Death. Then the serpent carried her into
another room and fastened the door; and shaking off his skin on the
floor, he became a most beautiful youth, with a head all covered with
ringlets of gold, and with eyes that would enchant you!

When the King saw the serpent go into the room with his daughter and
shut the door after him, he said to his wife, "Heaven have mercy on
that good soul, my daughter! for she is dead to a certainty, and that
accursed serpent has doubtless swallowed her down like the yolk of an
egg." Then he put his eye to the key-hole to see what had become of
her; but when he saw the exceeding beauty of the youth, and the skin of
the serpent that he had left lying on the ground, he gave the door a
kick, then in they rushed, and, taking the skin, flung it into the fire
and burned it.

When the youth saw this, he cried, "Ah, fools, what have you done!" and
instantly he was turned into a dove and flew at the window, where, as
he struck his head through the panes, he cut himself sorely.

Grannonia, who thus saw herself at the same moment happy and unhappy,
joyful and miserable, rich and poor, tore her hair and bewailed her
fate, reproaching her father and mother; but they excused themselves,
declaring that they had not meant to do harm. But she went on weeping
and wailing until Night came forth to drape the canopy of the sky for
the funeral of the Sun; and when they were all in bed, she took her
jewels, which were in a writing-desk, and went out by the back-door, to
search everywhere for the treasure she had lost.

She went out of the city, guided by the light of the moon; and on her
way she met a fox, who asked her if she wished for company. "Of all
things, my friend," replied Grannonia. "I should be delighted; for I am
not over well acquainted with the country." So they travelled along
together till they came to a wood, where the trees, at play like
children, were making baby-houses for the shadows to lie in. And as
they were now tired and wished to rest, they sheltered under the leaves
where a fountain was playing tricks with the grass, throwing water on
it by the dishful. There they stretched themselves on a mattress of
tender soft grass, and paid the duty of repose which they owed to
Nature for the merchandise of life.

They did not awake till the Sun, with his usual fire, gave the signal
to sailors and travellers to set out on their road; and, after they
awoke, they still stayed for some time listening to the songs of the
birds, in which Grannonia took great delight. The fox, seeing this,
said to her, "You would feel twice as much pleasure if, like me, you
understood what they are saying." At these words Grannonia--for women
are by nature as curious as they are talkative--begged the fox to tell
her what he had heard the birds saying. So, after having let her
entreat him for a long time, to raise her curiosity about what he was
going to relate, he told her that the birds were talking to each other
about what had lately befallen the King's son, who was as beautiful as
a jay. Because he had offended a wicked ogress, she had laid him under
a spell to pass seven years in the form of a serpent; and when he had
nearly ended the seven years, he fell in love with the daughter of a
King, and being one day in a room with the maiden, he had cast his skin
on the ground, when her father and mother rushed in and burned it.
Then, when the Prince was flying away in the shape of a dove, he broke
a pane in the window to escape, and hurt his head so severely that he
was given over by the doctors.

Grannonia, who thus heard her own onions spoken of, asked if there was
any cure for this injury. The fox replied that there was none other
than by anointing his wounds with the blood of those very birds that
had been telling the story. When Grannonia heard this, she fell down on
her knees to the fox, entreating him to catch those birds for her, that
she might get their blood; adding that, like honest comrades, they
would share the gain. "Fair and softly," said the fox; "let us wait
till night, and when the birds are gone to bed, trust me to climb the
tree and capture them, one after the other."

So they waited till Day was gone, and Earth had spread out her great
black board to catch the wax that might drop from the tapers of Night.
Then the fox, as soon as he saw all the birds fast asleep on the
branches, stole up quite softly, and one after another, throttled all
the linnets, larks, tomtits, blackbirds, woodpeckers, thrushes, jays,
fly-catchers, little owls, goldfinches, bullfinches, chaffinches, and
redbreasts that were on the trees. And when he had killed them all they
put the blood in a little bottle, which the fox carried with him, to
refresh himself on the road.

Grannonia was so overjoyed that she hardly touched the ground; but the
fox said to her, "What fine joy in a dream is this, my daughter! You
have done nothing, unless you mix my blood also with that of the
birds"; and so saying he set off to run away. Grannonia, who saw all
her hopes likely to be destroyed, had recourse to woman's
art--flattery; and she said to him, "Gossip fox, there would be some
reason for your saving your hide if I were not under so many
obligations to you, and if there were no other foxes in the world. But
you know how much I owe you, and that there is no scarcity of the likes
of you on these plains. Rely on my good faith. Don't act like the cow
that kicks over the pail which she has just filled with milk. You have
done the chief part, and now you fail at the last. Do stop! Believe me,
and come with me to the city of this King, where you may sell me for a
slave if you will!"

The fox never dreamed that he could be out-forced by a woman; so he
agreed to travel on with her. But they had hardly gone fifty paces,
when she lifted up the stick she carried and gave him such a neat rap
that he forthwith stretched his legs. Then she put his blood into the
little bottle; and setting off again she stayed not till she came to
Big Valley, where she went straightway to the royal palace, and sent
word that she was come to cure the Prince.

Then the King ordered her to be brought before him, and he was
astonished at seeing a girl undertake a thing which the best doctors in
his kingdom had failed to do. However, a trial could do no harm; and so
he said he wished greatly to see the experiment made. But Grannonia
answered, "If I succeed, you must promise to give him to me for a
husband." The King, who looked on his son to be even as already dead,
answered her, "If you give him to me safe and sound, I will give him to
you sound and safe; for it is no great matter to give a husband to her
that gives me a son."

So they went to the chamber of the Prince, and hardly had she anointed
him with the blood, when he found himself just as if nothing had ever
ailed him. Grannonia, when she saw the Prince stout and hearty, bade
the King keep his word; whereupon he, turning to his son, said, "My
son, a moment ago you were all but dead, and now I see you alive, and
can hardly believe it. Therefore, as I have promised this maiden that
if she cured you she should have you for a husband, now enable me to
perform my promise, by all the love you bear me, since gratitude
obliges me to pay this debt."

When the Prince heard these words, he said, "Sir, I would that I was
free to prove to you the love I bear you. But as I have already pledged
my faith to another woman, you would not consent that I should break my
word, nor would this maiden wish that I should do such a wrong to her
whom I love; nor can I, indeed, alter my mind!"

Grannonia, hearing this, felt a secret pleasure not to be described at
finding herself still alive in the memory of the Prince. Her whole face
became crimson as she said, "If I could induce this maiden to resign
her claims, would you then consent to my wish?" "Never," replied the
Prince, "will I banish from this breast the fair image of her whom I
love. I shall ever remain of the same mind and will; and I would sooner
see myself in danger of losing my place at the table of life than play
so mean a trick!"

Grannonia could no longer disguise herself, and discovered to the
Prince who she was; for, the chamber having been darkened on account of
the wound in his head, he had not known her. But the Prince, now that
he recognised her, embraced her with a joy that would amaze you,
telling his father what he had done and suffered for her. Then they
sent to invite her parents, the King and Queen of Long Field; and they
celebrated the wedding with wonderful festivity, making great sport of
the great ninny of a fox, and concluding at the last of the last that--

     "Pain doth indeed a seasoning prove
     Unto the joys of constant love."



XV

THE SHE-BEAR

Truly the wise man said well that a command of gall cannot be obeyed
like one of sugar. A man must require just and reasonable things if he
would see the scales of obedience properly trimmed.

From orders which are improper springs resistance which is not easily
overcome, as happened to the King of Rough-Rock, who, by asking what he
ought not of his daughter, caused her to run away from him, at the risk
of losing both honour and life.

There lived, it is said, once upon a time a King of Rough-Rock, who had
a wife the very mother of beauty, but in the full career of her years
she fell from the horse of health and broke her life. Before the candle
of life went out at the auction of her years she called her husband and
said to him, "I know you have always loved me tenderly; show me,
therefore, at the close of my days the completion of your love by
promising me never to marry again, unless you find a woman as beautiful
as I have been, otherwise I leave you my curse, and shall bear you
hatred even in the other world."

The King, who loved his wife beyond measure, hearing this her last
wish, burst into tears, and for some time could not answer a single
word. At last, when he had done weeping, he said to her, "Sooner than
take another wife may the gout lay hold of me; may I have my head cut
off like a mackerel! My dearest love, drive such a thought from your
mind; do not believe in dreams, or that I could love any other woman;
you were the first new coat of my love, and you shall carry away with
you the last rags of my affection."

As he said these words the poor young Queen, who was at the point of
death, turned up her eyes and stretched out her feet. When the King saw
her life thus running out he unstopped the channels of his eyes, and
made such a howling and beating and outcry that all the Court came
running up, calling on the name of the dear soul, and upbraiding
Fortune for taking her from him, and plucking out his beard, he cursed
the stars that had sent him such a misfortune. But bearing in mind the
maxim, "Pain in one's elbow and pain for one's wife are alike hard to
bear, but are soon over," ere the Night had gone forth into the
place-of-arms in the sky to muster the bats he began to count upon his
fingers and to reflect thus to himself, "Here is my wife dead, and I am
left a wretched widower, with no hope of seeing any one but this poor
daughter whom she has left me. I must therefore try to discover some
means or other of having a son and heir. But where shall I look? Where
shall I find a woman equal in beauty to my wife? Every one appears a
witch in comparison with her; where, then, shall I find another with a
bit of stick, or seek another with the bell, if Nature made Nardella
(may she be in glory), and then broke the mould? Alas, in what a
labyrinth has she put me, in what a perplexity has the promise I made
her left me! But what do I say? I am running away before I have seen
the wolf; let me open my eyes and ears and look about; may there not be
some other as beautiful? Is it possible that the world should be lost
to me? Is there such a dearth of women, or is the race extinct?"

So saying he forthwith issued a proclamation and command that all the
handsome women in the world should come to the touch-stone of beauty,
for he would take the most beautiful to wife and endow her with a
kingdom. Now, when this news was spread abroad, there was not a woman
in the universe who did not come to try her luck--not a witch, however
ugly, who stayed behind; for when it is a question of beauty, no
scullion-wench will acknowledge herself surpassed; every one piques
herself on being the handsomest; and if the looking-glass tells her the
truth she blames the glass for being untrue, and the quicksilver for
being put on badly.

When the town was thus filled with women the King had them all drawn up
in a line, and he walked up and down from top to bottom, and as he
examined and measured each from head to foot one appeared to him
wry-browed, another long-nosed, another broad-mouthed, another
thick-lipped, another tall as a may-pole, another short and dumpy,
another too stout, another too slender; the Spaniard did not please him
on account of her dark colour, the Neopolitan was not to his fancy on
account of her gait, the German appeared cold and icy, the Frenchwoman
frivolous and giddy, the Venetian with her light hair looked like a
distaff of flax. At the end of the end, one for this cause and another
for that, he sent them all away, with one hand before and the other
behind; and, seeing that so many fair faces were all show and no wool,
he turned his thoughts to his own daughter, saying, "Why do I go
seeking the impossible when my daughter Preziosa is formed in the same
mould of beauty as her mother? I have this fair face here in my house,
and yet go looking for it at the fag-end of the world. She shall marry
whom I will, and so I shall have an heir."

When Preziosa heard this she retired to her chamber, and bewailing her
ill-fortune as if she would not leave a hair upon her head; and, whilst
she was lamenting thus, an old woman came to her, who was her
confidant. As soon as she saw Preziosa, who seemed to belong more to
the other world than to this, and heard the cause of her grief, the old
woman said to her, "Cheer up, my daughter, do not despair; there is a
remedy for every evil save death. Now listen; if your father speaks to
you thus once again put this bit of wood into your mouth, and instantly
you will be changed into a she-bear; then off with you! for in his
fright he will let you depart, and go straight to the wood, where
Heaven has kept good-fortune in store for you since the day you were
born, and whenever you wish to appear a woman, as you are and will
remain, only take the piece of wood out of your mouth and you will
return to your true form." Then Preziosa embraced the old woman, and,
giving her a good apronful of meal, and ham and bacon, sent her away.

As soon as the Sun began to change his quarters, the King ordered the
musicians to come, and, inviting all his lords and vassals, he held a
great feast. And after dancing for five or six hours, they all sat down
to table, and ate and drank beyond measure. Then the King asked his
courtiers to whom he should marry Preziosa, as she was the picture of
his dead wife. But the instant Preziosa heard this, she slipped the bit
of wood into her mouth, and took the figure of a terrible she-bear, at
the sight of which all present were frightened out of their wits, and
ran off as fast as they could scamper.

Meanwhile Preziosa went out, and took her way to a wood, where the
Shades were holding a consultation how they might do some mischief to
the Sun at the close of day. And there she stayed, in the pleasant
companionship of the other animals, until the son of the King of
Running-Water came to hunt in that part of the country, who, at the
sight of the bear, had like to have died on the spot. But when he saw
the beast come gently up to him, wagging her tail like a little dog and
rubbing her sides against him, he took courage, and patted her, and
said, "Good bear, good bear! there, there! poor beast, poor beast!"
Then he led her home and ordered that she should be taken great care
of; and he had her put into a garden close to the royal palace, that he
might see her from the window whenever he wished.

One day, when all the people of the house were gone out, and the Prince
was left alone, he went to the window to look out at the bear; and
there he beheld Preziosa, who had taken the piece of wood out of her
mouth, combing her golden tresses.  At the sight of this beauty, which
was beyond the beyonds, he had like to have lost his senses with
amazement, and tumbling down the stairs he ran out into the garden. But
Preziosa, who was on the watch and observed him, popped the piece of
wood into her mouth, and was instantly changed into a bear again.

When the Prince came down and looked about in vain for Preziosa, whom
he had seen from the window above, he was so amazed at the trick that a
deep melancholy came over him, and in four days he fell sick, crying
continually, "My bear, my bear!" His mother, hearing him wailing thus,
imagined that the bear had done him some hurt, and gave orders that she
should be killed. But the servants, enamoured of the tameness of the
bear, who made herself beloved by the very stones in the road, took
pity on her, and, instead of killing her, they led her to the wood, and
told the queen that they had put an end to her.

When this came to the ears of the Prince, he acted in a way to pass
belief. Ill or well he jumped out of bed, and was going at once to make
mincemeat of the servants. But when they told him the truth of the
affair, he jumped on horseback, half-dead as he was, and went rambling
about and seeking everywhere, until at length he found the bear. Then
he took her home again, and putting her into a chamber, said to her, "O
lovely morsel for a King, who art shut up in this skin! O candle of
love, who art enclosed within this hairy lanthorn! Wherefore all this
trifling? Do you wish to see me pine and pant, and die by inches? I am
wasting away; without hope, and tormented by thy beauty. And you see
clearly the proof, for I am shrunk two-thirds in size, like wine boiled
down, and am nothing but skin and bone, for the fever is
double-stitched to my veins. So lift up the curtain of this hairy hide,
and let me gaze upon the spectacle of thy beauty! Raise, O raise the
leaves off this basket, and let me get a sight of the fine fruit
beneath! Lift up that curtain, and let my eyes pass in to behold the
pomp of wonders! Who has shut up so smooth a creature in a prison woven
of hair? Who has locked up so rich a treasure in a leathern chest? Let
me behold this display of graces, and take in payment all my love; for
nothing else can cure the troubles I endure."

But when he had said, again and again, this and a great deal more, and
still saw that all his words were thrown away, he took to his bed, and
had such a desperate fit that the doctors prognosticated badly of his
case. Then his mother, who had no other joy in the world, sat down by
his bedside, and said to him, "My son, whence comes all this grief?
What melancholy humour has seized you? You are young, you are loved,
you are great, you are rich--what then is it you want, my son? Speak; a
bashful beggar carries an empty bag. If you want a wife, only choose,
and I will bring the match about; do you take, and I'll pay. Do you not
see that your illness is an illness to me? Your pulse beats with fever
in your veins, and my heart beats with illness in my brain, for I have
no other support of my old age than you. So be cheerful now, and cheer
up my heart, and do not see the whole kingdom thrown into mourning,
this house into lamentation, and your mother forlorn and heart-broken."

When the Prince heard these words, he said, "Nothing can console me but
the sight of the bear. Therefore, if you wish to see me well again, let
her be brought into this chamber; I will have no one else to attend me,
and make my bed, and cook for me, but she herself; and you may be sure
that this pleasure will make me well in a trice."

Thereupon his mother, although she thought it ridiculous enough for the
bear to act as cook and chambermaid, and feared that her son was not in
his right mind, yet, in order to gratify him, had the bear fetched. And
when the bear came up to the Prince's bed, she raised her paw and felt
the patient's pulse, which made the Queen laugh outright, for she
thought every moment that the bear would scratch his nose. Then the
Prince said, "My dear bear, will you not cook for me, and give me my
food, and wait upon me?" and the bear nodded her head, to show that she
accepted the office. Then his mother had some fowls brought, and a fire
lighted on the hearth in the same chamber, and some water set to boil;
whereupon the bear, laying hold on a fowl, scalded and plucked it
handily, and drew it, and then stuck one portion of it on the spit, and
with the other part she made such a delicious hash that the Prince, who
could not relish even sugar, licked his fingers at the taste. And when
he had done eating, the bear handed him drink with such grace that the
Queen was ready to kiss her on the forehead. Thereupon the Prince
arose, and the bear quickly set about making the bed; and running into
the garden, she gathered a clothful of roses and citron-flowers and
strewed them over it, so that the queen said the bear was worth her
weight in gold, and that her son had good reason to be fond of her.

But when the Prince saw these pretty offices they only added fuel to
the fire; and if before he wasted by ounces, he now melted away by
pounds, and he said to the Queen, "My lady mother, if I do not give
this bear a kiss, the breath will leave my body." Whereupon the Queen,
seeing him fainting away, said, "Kiss him, kiss him, my beautiful
beast! Let me not see my poor son die of longing!" Then the bear went
up to the Prince, and taking him by the cheeks, kissed him again and
again. Meanwhile (I know not how it was) the piece of wood slipped out
of Preziosa's mouth, and she remained in the arms of the Prince, the
most beautiful creature in the world; and pressing her to his heart, he
said, "I have caught you, my little rogue! You shall not escape from me
again without a good reason." At these words Preziosa, adding the
colour of modesty to the picture of her natural beauty, said to him, "I
am indeed in your hands--only guard me safely, and marry me when you
will."

Then the Queen inquired who the beautiful maiden was, and what had
brought her to this savage life; and Preziosa related the whole story
of her misfortunes, at which the Queen, praising her as a good and
virtuous girl, told her son that she was content that Preziosa should
be his wife. Then the Prince, who desired nothing else in life,
forthwith pledged her his faith; and the mother giving them her
blessing, this happy marriage was celebrated with great feasting and
illuminations, and Preziosa experienced the truth of the saying that--

     "One who acts well may always expect good."



XVI

THE DOVE

He who is born a prince should not act like a beggar boy. The man who
is high in rank ought not to set a bad example to those below him; for
the little donkey learns from the big one to eat straw. It is no
wonder, therefore, that Heaven sends him troubles by bushels--as
happened to a prince who was brought into great difficulties for
ill-treating and tormenting a poor woman, so that he was near losing
his life miserably.

About eight miles from Naples there was once a deep wood of fig-trees
and poplars. In this wood stood a half-ruined cottage, wherein dwelt an
old woman, who was as light of teeth as she was burdened with years.
She had a hundred wrinkles in her face, and a great many more in her
purse, and all her silver covered her head, so that she went from one
thatched cottage to another, begging alms to keep life in her. But as
folks nowadays much rather give a purseful of crowns to a crafty spy
than a farthing to a poor needy man, she had to toil a whole day to get
a dish of kidney-beans, and that at a time when they were very
plentiful. Now one day the poor old woman, after having washed the
beans, put them in a pot, placed it outside the window, and went on her
way to the wood to gather sticks for the fire. But while she was away,
Nardo Aniello, the King's son, passed by the cottage on his way to the
chase; and, seeing the pot at the window, he took a great fancy to have
a fling at it; and he made a bet with his attendants to see who should
fling the straightest and hit in the middle with a stone. Then they
began to throw at the innocent pot; and in three or four casts the
prince hit it to a hair and won the bet.

The old woman returned just after they had gone away, and seeing the
sad disaster, she began to act as if she were beside herself, crying,
"Ay, let him stretch out his arm and go about boasting how he has
broken this pot! The villainous rascal who has sown my beans out of
season. If he had no compassion for my misery, he should have had some
regard for his own interest; for I pray Heaven, on my bare knees and
from the bottom of my soul, that he may fall in love with the daughter
of some ogress, who may plague and torment him in every way. May his
mother-in-law lay on him such a curse that he may see himself living
and yet bewail himself as dead; and being spellbound by the beauty of
the daughter, and the arts of the mother, may he never be able to
escape, but be obliged to remain. May she order him about with a cudgel
in her hand, and give him bread with a little fork, that he may have
good cause to lament over my beans which he has spilt on the ground."
The old woman's curses took wing and flew up to Heaven in a trice; so
that, notwithstanding what a proverb says, "for a woman's curse you are
never the worse, and the coat of a horse that has been cursed always
shines," she rated the Prince so soundly that he well-nigh jumped out
of his skin.

Scarcely had two hours passed when the Prince, losing himself in the
wood and parted from his attendants, met a beautiful maiden, who was
going along picking up snails and saying with a laugh--

     "Snail, snail, put out your horn,
     Your mother is laughing you to scorn,
     For she has a little son just born."

When the Prince saw this beautiful apparition he knew not what had
befallen him; and, as the beams from the eyes of that crystal face fell
upon the tinder of his heart, he was all in a flame, so that he became
a lime-kiln wherein the stones of designs were burnt to build the
houses of hopes.

Now Filadoro (for so the maiden was named) was no wiser than other
people; and the Prince, being a smart young fellow with handsome
moustachios, pierced her heart through and through, so that they stood
looking at one another for compassion with their eyes, which proclaimed
aloud the secret of their souls. After they had both remained thus for
a long time, unable to utter a single word, the Prince at last, finding
his voice, addressed Filadoro thus, "From what meadow has this flower
of beauty sprung? From what mine has this treasure of beauteous things
come to light? O happy woods, O fortunate groves, which this nobility
inhabits, which this illumination of the festivals of love irradiates."

"Kiss this hand, my lord," answered Filadoro, "not so much modesty; for
all the praise that you have bestowed on me belongs to your virtues,
not to my merits. Such as I am, handsome or ugly, fat or thin, a witch
or a fairy, I am wholly at your command; for your manly form has
captivated my heart, your princely mien has pierced me through from
side to side, and from this moment I give myself up to you for ever as
a chained slave."

At these words the Prince seized at once her hand, kissing the ivory
hook that had caught his heart. At this ceremony of the prince,
Filadoro's face grew as red as scarlet. But the more Nardo Aniello
wished to continue speaking, the more his tongue seemed tied; for in
this wretched life there is no wine of enjoyment without dregs of
vexation. And just at this moment Filadoro's mother suddenly appeared,
who was such an ugly ogress that Nature seemed to have formed her as a
model of horrors. Her hair was like a besom of holly; her forehead like
a rough stone; her eyes were comets that predicted all sorts of evils;
her mouth had tusks like a boar's--in short, from head to foot she was
ugly beyond imagination. Now she seized Nardo Aniello by the nape of
his neck, saying, "Hollo! what now, you thief! you rogue!"

"Yourself the rogue," replied the Prince, "back with you, old hag!" And
he was just going to draw his sword, when all at once he stood fixed
like a sheep that has seen the wolf and can neither stir nor utter a
sound, so that the ogress led him like an ass by the halter to her
house. And when they came there she said to him, "Mind, now, and work
like a dog, unless you wish to die like a dog. For your first task
to-day you must have this acre of land dug and sown level as this room;
and recollect that if I return in the evening and do not find the work
finished, I shall eat you up." Then, bidding her daughter take care of
the house, she went to a meeting of the other ogresses in the wood.

Nardo Aniello, seeing himself in this dilemma, began to bathe his
breast with tears, cursing his fate which brought him to this pass. But
Filadoro comforted him, bidding him be of good heart, for she would
ever risk her life to assist him. She said that she ought not to lament
his fate which had led him to the house where she lived, who loved him
so dearly, and that he showed little return for her love by being so
despairing at what had happened. The Prince replied: "I am not grieved
at having exchanged the royal palace for this hovel; splendid banquets
for a crust of bread; a sceptre for a spade; not at seeing myself, who
have terrified armies, now frightened by this hideous scarecrow; for I
should deem all my disasters good fortune to be with you and to gaze
upon you with these eyes. But what pains me to the heart is that I have
to dig till my hands are covered with hard skin--I whose fingers are so
delicate and soft as Barbary wool; and, what is still worse, I have to
do more than two oxen could get through in a day. If I do not finish
the task this evening your mother will eat me up; yet I should not
grieve so much to quit this wretched body as to be parted from so
beautiful a creature."

So saying he heaved sighs by bushels, and shed many tears. But
Filadoro, drying his eyes, said to him, "Fear not that my mother will
touch a hair of your head. Trust to me and do not be afraid; for you
must know that I possess magical powers, and am able to make cream set
on water and to darken the sun. Be of good heart, for by the evening
the piece of land will be dug and sown without any one stirring a hand."

When Nardo Aniello heard this, he answered, "If you have magic power,
as you say, O beauty of the world, why do we not fly from this country?
For you shall live like a queen in my father's house." And Filadoro
replied, "A certain conjunction of the stars prevents this, but the
trouble will soon pass and we shall be happy."

With these and a thousand other pleasant discourses the day passed, and
when the ogress came back she called to her daughter from the road and
said, "Filadoro, let down your hair," for as the house had no staircase
she always ascended by her daughter's tresses. As soon as Filadoro
heard her mother's voice she unbound her hair and let fall her tresses,
making a golden ladder to an iron heart. Whereupon the old woman
mounted up quickly, and ran into the garden; but when she found it all
dug and sown, she was beside herself with amazement; for it seemed to
her impossible that a delicate lad should have accomplished such hard
labour.

But the next morning, hardly had the Sun gone out to warm himself on
account of the cold he had caught in the river of India, than the
ogress went down again, bidding Nardo Aniello take care that in the
evening she should find ready split six stacks of wood which were in
the cellar, with every log cleft into four pieces, or otherwise she
would cut him up like bacon and make a fry of him for supper.

On hearing this decree the poor Prince had liked to have died of
terror, and Filadoro, seeing him half dead and pale as ashes, said,
"Why! What a coward you are to be frightened at such a trifle." "Do you
think it a trifle," replied Nardo Aniello, "to split six stacks of
wood, with every log cleft into four pieces, between this time and the
evening? Alas, I shall sooner be cleft in halves myself to fill the
mouth of this horrid old woman." "Fear not," answered Filadoro, "for
without giving yourself any trouble the wood shall all be split in good
time. But meanwhile cheer up, if you love me, and do not split my heart
with such lamentations."

Now when the Sun had shut up the shop of his rays, in order not to sell
light to the Shades, the old woman returned; and, bidding Filadoro let
down the usual ladder, she ascended, and finding the wood already split
she began to suspect it was her own daughter who had given her this
check. At the third day, in order to make a third trial, she told the
Prince to clean out for her a cistern which held a thousand casks of
water, for she wished to fill it anew, adding that if the task were not
finished by the evening she would make mincemeat of him. When the old
woman went away Nardo Aniello began again to weep and wail; and
Filadoro, seeing that the labours increased, and that the old woman had
something of the brute in her to burden the poor fellow with such tasks
and troubles, said to him, "Be quiet, and as soon as the moment has
passed that interrupts my art, before the Sun says  I am off,' we will
say good-bye to this house; sure enough, this evening my mother shall
find the land cleared, and I will go off with you, alive or dead." The
Prince, on hearing this news, embraced Filadoro and said, "Thou art the
pole-star of this storm-tossed bark, my soul! Thou art the prop of my
hopes."

Now, when the evening drew nigh, Filadoro having dug a hole in the
garden into a large underground passage, they went out and took the way
to Naples. But when they arrived at the grotto of Pozzuolo, Nardo
Aniello said to Filadoro, "It will never do for me to take you to the
palace on foot and dressed in this manner. Therefore wait at this inn
and I will soon return with horses, carriages, servants, and clothes."
So Filadoro stayed behind and the Prince went on his way to the city.
Meantime the ogress returned home, and as Filadoro did not answer to
her usual summons, she grew suspicious, ran into the wood, and cutting
a great, long pole, placed it against the window and climbed up like a
cat. Then she went into the house and hunted everywhere inside and out,
high and low, but found no one. At last she perceived the hole, and
seeing that it led into the open air, in her rage she did not leave a
hair upon her head, cursing her daughter and the Prince, and praying
that at the first kiss Filadoro's lover should receive he might forget
her.

But let us leave the old woman to say her wicked curses and return to
the Prince, who on arriving at the palace, where he was thought to be
dead, put the whole house in an uproar, every one running to meet him
and crying, "Welcome! welcome! Here he is, safe and sound, how happy we
are to see him back in this country," with a thousand other words of
affection. But as he was going up the stairs his mother met him
half-way and embraced and kissed him, saying, "My son, my jewel, the
apple of my eye, where have you been and why have you stayed away so
long to make us all die with anxiety?" The Prince knew not what to
answer, for he did not wish to tell her of his misfortunes; but no
sooner had his mother kissed him than, owing to the curse, all that had
passed went from his memory. Then the Queen told her son that to put an
end to his going hunting and wasting his time in the woods, she wished
him to get married. "Well and good," replied the Prince, "I am ready
and prepared to do what you desire." So it was settled that within four
days they should lead home to him the bride who had just arrived from
the country of Flanders; and thereupon a great feasting and banquets
were held.

But meanwhile Filadoro, seeing that her husband stayed away so long and
hearing (I know not how) of the feast, waited in the evening till the
servant-lad of the inn had gone to bed, and taking his clothes from the
head of the bed, she left her own in their place, and disguising
herself like a man, went to the court of the king, where the cooks,
being in want of help, took her as kitchen boy. When the tables were
set out and the guests all took their seats, and the dishes were set
down and the carver was cutting up a large English pie which Filadoro
had made with her own hands, lo, out flew such a beautiful dove that
the guests in their astonishment, forgetting to eat, fell to admiring
the pretty bird, which said to the Prince in a piteous voice, "Have you
so soon forgotten the love of Filadoro, and have all the services you
received from her, ungrateful man, gone from your memory? Is it thus
you repay the benefits she has done you: she who took you out of the
claws of the ogress and gave you life and herself too? Woe to the woman
who trusts too much to the words of man, who ever requites kindness
with ingratitude, and pays debts with forgetfulness. But go, forget
your promises, false man. And may the curses follow you which the
unhappy maiden sends you from the bottom of her heart. But if the gods
have not locked up their ears they will witness the wrong you have done
her, and when you least expect it the lightning and thunder, fever and
illness, will come to you. Enough, eat and drink, take your sports, for
unhappy Filadoro, deceived and forsaken, will leave you the field open
to make merry with your new wife." So saying, the dove flew away
quickly and vanished like the wind. The Prince, hearing the murmuring
of the dove, stood for a while stupefied. At length, he inquired whence
the pie came, and when the carver told him that a scullion boy who had
been taken to assist in the kitchen had made it, he ordered him to be
brought into the room. Then Filadoro, throwing herself at the feet of
Nardo Aniello, shedding a torrent of tears, said merely, "What have I
done to you?" Whereupon the Prince at once recalled to mind the
engagement he had made with her; and, instantly raising her up, seated
her by his side, and when he related to his mother the great obligation
he was under to this beautiful maiden and all that she had done for
him, and how it was necessary that the promise he had given should be
fulfilled, his mother, who had no other joy in life than her son, said
to him, "Do as you please, so that you offend not this lady whom I have
given you to wife." "Be not troubled," said the lady, "for, to tell the
truth, I am very loth to remain in this country; with your kind
permission I wish to return to my dear Flanders." Thereupon the Prince
with great joy offered her a vessel and attendants; and, ordering
Filadoro to be dressed like a Princess, when the tables were removed,
the musicians came and they began the ball which lasted until evening.

So the feast being now ended, they all betook themselves to rest, and
the Prince and Filadoro lived happily ever after, proving the truth of
the proverb that--

     "He who stumbles and does not fall,
     Is helped on his way like a rolling ball."



XVII

CANNETELLA

It is an evil thing to seek for better than wheaten bread, for a man
comes at last to desire what others throw away, and must content
himself with honesty. He who loses all and walks on the tops of the
trees has as much madness in his head as danger under his feet, as was
the case with the daughter of a King whose story I have now to tell you.

There was once on a time a King of High-Hill who longed for children
more than the porters do for a funeral that they may gather wax. And at
last his wife presented him with a little girl, to whom he gave the
name Cannetella.

The child grew by hands, and when she was as tall as a pole the King
said to her, "My daughter, you are now grown as big as an oak, and it
is full time to provide you with a husband worthy of that pretty face.
Since, therefore, I love you as my own life and desire to please you,
tell me, I pray, what sort of a husband you would like, what kind of a
man would suit your fancy? Will you have him a scholar or a dunce? a
boy, or man in years? brown or fair or ruddy? tall as a maypole or
short as a peg? small in the waist or round as an ox? Do you choose,
and I am satisfied."

Cannetella thanked her father for these generous offers, but told him
that she would on no account encumber herself with a husband. However,
being urged by the King again and again, she said, "Not to show myself
ungrateful for so much love I am willing to comply with your wish,
provided I have such a husband that he has no like in the world."

Her father, delighted beyond measure at hearing this, took his station
at the window from morning till evening, looking out and surveying,
measuring and examining every one that passed along the street. And one
day, seeing a good-looking man go by, the King said to his daughter,
"Run, Cannetella! see if yon man comes up to the measure of your
wishes." Then she desired him to be brought up, and they made a most
splendid banquet for him, at which there was everything he could
desire. And as they were feasting an almond fell out of the youth's
mouth, whereupon, stooping down, he picked it up dexterously from the
ground and put it under the cloth, and when they had done eating he
went away. Then the King said to Cannetella, "Well, my life, how does
this youth please you?" "Take the fellow away," said she; "a man so
tall and so big as he should never have let an almond drop out of his
mouth."

When the King heard this he returned to his place at the window, and
presently, seeing another well-shaped youth pass by, he called his
daughter to hear whether this one pleased her. Then Cannetella desired
him to be shown up; so he was called, and another entertainment made.
And when they had done eating, and the man had gone away, the King
asked his daughter whether he had pleased her, whereupon she replied,
"What in the world should I do with such a miserable fellow who wants
at least a couple of servants with him to take off his cloak?"

"If that be the case," said the King, "it is plain that these are
merely excuses, and that you are only looking for pretexts to refuse me
this pleasure. So resolve quickly, for I am determined to have you
married." To these angry words Cannetella replied, "To tell you the
truth plainly, dear father, I really feel that you are digging in the
sea and making a wrong reckoning on your fingers. I will never subject
myself to any man who has not a golden head and teeth." The poor King,
seeing his daughter's head thus turned, issued a proclamation, bidding
any one in his kingdom who should answer to Cannetella's wishes to
appear, and he would give him his daughter and the kingdom.

Now this King had a mortal enemy named Fioravante, whom he could not
bear to see so much as painted on a wall. He, when he heard of this
proclamation, being a cunning magician, called a parcel of that evil
brood to him, and commanded them forthwith to make his head and teeth
of gold. So they did as he desired, and when he saw himself with a head
and teeth of pure gold he walked past under the window of the King,
who, when he saw the very man he was looking for, called his daughter.
As soon as Cannetella set eyes upon him she cried out, "Ay, that is he!
he could not be better if I had kneaded him with my own hands."

When Fioravante was getting up to go away the King said to him, "Wait a
little, brother; why in such a hurry! One would think you had
quicksilver in your body! Fair and softly, I will give you my daughter
and baggage and servants to accompany you, for I wish her to be your
wife."

"I thank you," said Fioravante, "but there is no necessity; a single
horse is enough if the beast will carry double, for at home I have
servants and goods as many as the sands on the sea-shore." So, after
arguing awhile, Fioravante at last prevailed, and, placing Cannetella
behind him on a horse, he set out.

In the evening, when the red horses are taken away from the corn-mill
of the sky and white oxen are yoked in their place, they came to a
stable where some horses were feeding. Fioravante led Cannetella into
it and said, "Listen! I have to make a journey to my own house, and it
will take me seven years to get there. Mind, therefore, and wait for me
in this stable and do not stir out, nor let yourself be seen by any
living person, or else I will make you remember it as long as you
live." Cannetella replied, "You are my lord and master, and I will
carry out your commands exactly, but tell me what you will leave me to
live upon in the meantime." And Fioravante answered, "What the horses
leave of their own corn will be enough for you."

Only conceive how poor Cannetella now felt, and guess whether she did
not curse the hour and moment she was born! Cold and frozen, she made
up in tears what she wanted in food, bewailing her fate which had
brought her down from a royal palace to a stable, from mattresses of
Barbary wool to straw, from nice, delicate morsels to the leavings of
horses. And she led this miserable life for several months, during
which time corn was given to the horses by an unseen hand, and what
they left supported her.

But at the end of this time, as she was standing one day looking
through a hole, she saw a most beautiful garden, in which there were so
many espaliers of lemons, and grottoes of citron, beds of flowers and
fruit-trees and trellises of vines, that it was a joy to behold. At
this sight a great longing seized her for a great bunch of grapes that
caught her eye, and she said to herself, "Come what will and if the sky
fall, I will go out silently and softly and pluck it. What will it
matter a hundred years hence? Who is there to tell my husband? And
should he by chance hear of it, what will he do to me? Moreover, these
grapes are none of the common sort." So saying, she went out and
refreshed her spirits, which were weakened by hunger.

A little while after, and before the appointed time, her husband came
back, and one of his horses accused Cannetella of having taken the
grapes. Whereat, Fioravante in a rage, drawing his knife, was about to
kill her, but, falling on her knees, she besought him to stay his hand,
since hunger drives the wolf from the wood. And she begged so hard that
Fioravante replied, "I forgive you this time, and grant you your life
out of charity, but if ever again you are tempted to disobey me, and I
find that you have let the sun see you, I will make mincemeat of you.
Now, mind me; I am going away once more, and shall be gone seven years.
So take care and plough straight, for you will not escape so easily
again, but I shall pay you off the new and the old scores together."

So saying, he departed, and Cannetella shed a river of tears, and,
wringing her hands, beating her breast, and tearing her hair, she
cried, "Oh, that ever I was born into the world to be destined to this
wretched fate! Oh, father, why have you ruined me? But why do I
complain of my father when I have brought this ill upon myself? I alone
am the cause of my misfortunes. I wished for a head of gold, only to
come to grief and die by iron! This is the punishment of Fate, for I
ought to have done my father's will, and not have had such whims and
fancies. He who minds not what his father and mother say goes a road he
does not know." And so she lamented every day, until her eyes became
two fountains, and her face was so thin and sallow, that her own father
would not have known her.

At the end of a year the King's locksmith, whom Cannetella knew,
happening to pass by the stable, she called to him and went out. The
smith heard his name, but did not recognise the poor girl, who was so
much altered; but when he knew who she was, and how she had become thus
changed, partly out of pity and partly to gain the King's favour, he
put her into an empty cask he had with him on a pack-horse, and,
trotting off towards High-Hill, he arrived at midnight at the King's
palace. Then he knocked at the door, and at first the servants would
not let him in, but roundly abused him for coming at such an hour to
disturb the sleep of the whole house. The King, however, hearing the
uproar, and being told by a chamberlain what was the matter, ordered
the smith to be instantly admitted, for he knew that something unusual
must have made him come at that hour. Then the smith, unloading his
beast, knocked out the head of the cask, and forth came Cannetella, who
needed more than words to make her father recognise her, and had it not
been for a mole on her arm she might well have been dismissed. But as
soon as he was assured of the truth he embraced and kissed her a
thousand times. Then he instantly commanded a warm bath to be got
ready; when she was washed from head to foot, and had dressed herself,
he ordered food to be brought, for she was faint with hunger. Then her
father said to her, "Who would ever have told me, my child, that I
should see you in this plight? Who has brought you to this sad
condition?" And she answered, "Alas, my dear sire, that Barbary Turk
has made me lead the life of a dog, so that I was nearly at death's
door again and again. I cannot tell you what I have suffered, but, now
that I am here, never more will I stir from your feet. Rather will I be
a servant in your house than a queen in another. Rather will I wear
sackcloth where you are than a golden mantle away from you. Rather will
I turn a spit in your kitchen than hold a sceptre under the canopy of
another."

Meanwhile Fioravante, returning home, was told by the horses that the
locksmith had carried off Cannetella in the cask, on hearing which,
burning with shame, and all on fire with rage, off he ran towards
High-Hill, and, meeting an old woman who lived opposite to the palace,
he said to her, "What will you charge, good mother, to let me see the
King's daughter?" Then she asked a hundred ducats, and Fioravante,
putting his hand in his purse, instantly counted them out, one a-top of
the other. Thereupon the old woman took him up on the roof, where he
saw Cannetella drying her hair on a balcony. But--just as if her heart
had whispered to her--the maiden turned that way and saw the knave. She
rushed downstairs and ran to her father, crying out, "My lord, if you
do not this very instant make me a chamber with seven iron doors I am
lost and undone!"

"I will not lose you for such a trifle," said her father; "I would
pluck out an eye to gratify such a dear daughter!" So, no sooner said
than done, the doors were instantly made.

When Fioravante heard of this he went again to the old woman and said
to her, "What shall I give you now? Go to the King's house, under
pretext of selling pots of rouge, and make your way to the chamber of
the King's daughter. When you are there contrive to slip this little
piece of paper between the bed-clothes, saying, in an undertone, as you
place it there--

     Let every one now soundly sleep,
     But Cannetella awake shall keep."

So the old woman agreed for another hundred ducats, and she served him
faithfully.

Now, as soon as she had done this trick, such a sound sleep fell on the
people of the house that they seemed as if they all were dead.
Cannetella alone remained awake, and when she heard the doors bursting
open she began to cry aloud as if she were burnt, but no one heard her,
and there was no one to run to her aid. So Fioravante threw down all
the seven doors, and, entering her room, seized up Cannetella,
bed-clothes and all, to carry her off. But, as luck would have it, the
paper the old woman had put there fell on the ground, and the spell was
broken. All the people of the house awoke, and, hearing Cannetella's
cries, they ran--cats, dogs, and all--and, laying hold on the ogre,
quickly cut him in pieces like a pickled tunny. Thus he was caught in
the trap he had laid for poor Cannetella, learning to his cost that--

     "No one suffereth greater pain
     Than he who by his own sword is slain."



XVIII

CORVETTO

I once heard say that Juno went to Candia to find Falsehood. But if any
one were to ask me where fraud and hypocrisy might truly be found, I
should know of no other place to name than the Court, where detraction
always wears the mask of amusement; where, at the same time, people cut
and sew up, wound and heal, break and glue together--of which I will
give you one instance in the story that I am going to tell you.

There was once upon a time in the service of the King of Wide-River an
excellent youth named Corvetto, who, for his good conduct, was beloved
by his master; and for this very cause was disliked and hated by all
the courtiers. These courtiers were filled with spite and malice, and
bursting with envy at the kindness which the King showed to Corvetto;
so that all day long, in every corner of the palace, they did nothing
but tattle and whisper, murmur and grumble at the poor lad, saying,
"What sorcery has this fellow practised on the King that he takes such
a fancy to him? How comes he by this luck that not a day passes that he
receives some new favours, whilst we are for ever going backward like a
rope-maker, and getting from bad to worse, though we slave like dogs,
toil like field-labourers, and run about like deer to hit the King's
pleasure to a hair? Truly one must be born to good fortune in this
world, and he who has not luck might as well be thrown into the sea.
What is to be done? We can only look on and envy." These and other
words fell from their mouths like poisoned arrows aimed at the ruin of
Corvetto as at a target. Alas for him who is condemned to that den the
Court, where flattery is sold by the kilderkin, malignity and
ill-offices are measured out in bushels, deceit and treachery are
weighed by the ton! But who can count all the attempts these courtiers
made to bring him to grief, or the false tales that they told to the
King to destroy his reputation! But Corvetto, who was enchanted, and
perceived the traps, and discovered the tricks, was aware of all the
intrigues and the ambuscades, the plots and conspiracies of his
enemies. He kept his ears always on the alert and his eyes open in
order not to take a false step, well knowing that the fortune of
courtiers is as glass. But the higher the lad continued to rise the
lower the others fell; till at last, being puzzled to know how to take
him off his feet, as their slander was not believed, they thought of
leading him to disaster by the path of flattery, which they attempted
in the following manner.

Ten miles distant from Scotland, where the seat of this King was, there
dwelt an ogre, the most inhuman and savage that had ever been in
Ogreland, who, being persecuted by the King, had fortified himself in a
lonesome wood on the top of a mountain, where no bird ever flew, and
was so thick and tangled that one could never see the sun there. This
ogre had a most beautiful horse, which looked as if it were formed with
a pencil; and amongst other wonderful things, it could speak like any
man. Now the courtiers, who knew how wicked the ogre was, how thick the
wood, how high the mountain, and how difficult it was to get at the
horse, went to the King, and telling him minutely the perfections of
the animal, which was a thing worthy of a King, added that he ought to
endeavour by all means to get it out of the ogre's claws, and that
Corvetto was just the lad to do this, as he was expert and clever at
escaping out of the fire. The King, who knew not that under the flowers
of these words a serpent was concealed, instantly called Corvetto, and
said to him, "If you love me, see that in some way or another you
obtain for me the horse of my enemy the ogre, and you shall have no
cause to regret having done me this service."

Corvetto knew well that this drum was sounded by those who wished him
ill; nevertheless, to obey the King, he set out and took the road to
the mountain. Then going very quietly to the ogre's stable, he saddled
and mounted the horse, and fixing his feet firmly in the stirrup, took
his way back. But as soon as the horse saw himself spurred out of the
palace, he cried aloud, "Hollo! be on your guard! Corvetto is riding
off with me." At this alarm the ogre instantly set out, with all the
animals that served him, to cut Corvetto in pieces. From this side
jumped an ape, from that was seen a large bear; here sprang forth a
lion, there came running a wolf. But the youth, by the aid of bridle
and spur, distanced the mountain, and galloping without stop to the
city, arrived at the Court, where he presented the horse to the King.

Then the King embraced him more than a son, and pulling out his purse,
filled his hands with crown-pieces. At this the rage of the courtiers
knew no bounds; and whereas at first they were puffed up with a little
pipe, they were now bursting with the blasts of a smith's bellows,
seeing that the crowbars with which they thought to lay Corvetto's good
fortune in ruins only served to smooth the road to his prosperity.
Knowing, however, that walls are not levelled by the first attack of
the battering-ram, they resolved to try their luck a second time, and
said to the King, "We wish you joy of the beautiful horse! It will
indeed be an ornament to the royal stable. But what a pity you have not
the ogre's tapestry, which is a thing more beautiful than words can
tell, and would spread your fame far and wide! There is no one,
however, able to procure this treasure but Corvetto, who is just the
lad to do such a kind of service."

Then the King, who danced to every tune, and ate only the peel of this
bitter but sugared fruit, called Corvetto, and begged him to procure
for him the ogre's tapestry. Off went Corvetto and in four seconds was
on the top of the mountain where the ogre lived; then passing unseen
into the chamber in which he slept, he hid himself under the bed, and
waited as still as a mouse, until Night, to make the Stars laugh, puts
a carnival-mask on the face of the Sky. And as soon as the ogre and his
wife were gone to bed, Corvetto stripped the walls of the chamber very
quietly, and wishing to steal the counterpane of the bed likewise, he
began to pull it gently. Thereupon the ogre, suddenly starting up, told
his wife not to pull so, for she was dragging all the clothes off him,
and would give him his death of cold.

"Why you are uncovering me!" answered the ogress.

"Where is the counterpane?" replied the ogre; and stretching out his
hand to the floor he touched Corvetto's face; whereupon he set up a
loud cry,--"The imp! the imp! Hollo, here, lights! Run quickly!"--till
the whole house was turned topsy-turvy with the noise. But Corvetto,
after throwing the clothes out of the window, let himself drop down
upon them. Then making up a good bundle, he set out on the road to the
city, where the reception he met with from the King, and the vexation
of the courtiers, who were bursting with spite, are not to be told.
Nevertheless they laid a plan to fall upon Corvetto with the rear-guard
of their roguery, and went again to the King, who was almost beside
himself with delight at the tapestry--which was not only of silk
embroidered with gold, but had besides more than a thousand devices and
thoughts worked on it. And amongst the rest, if I remember right, there
was a cock in the act of crowing at daybreak, and out of its mouth was
seen coming a motto in Tuscan: IF I ONLY SEE YOU. And in another part a
drooping heliotrope with a Tuscan motto: AT SUNSET--with so many other
pretty things that it would require a better memory and more time than
I have to relate them.

When the courtiers came to the King, who was thus transported with joy,
they said to him, "As Corvetto has done so much to serve you, it would
be no great matter for him, in order to give you a signal pleasure, to
get the ogre's palace, which is fit for an emperor to live in; for it
has so many rooms and chambers, inside and out, that it can hold an
army. And you would never believe all the courtyards, porticoes,
colonnades, balconies, and spiral chimneys which there are--built with
such marvellous architecture that Art prides herself upon them, Nature
is abashed, and Stupor is in delight."

The King, who had a fruitful brain which conceived quickly, called
Corvetto again, and telling him the great longing that had seized him
for the ogre's palace, begged him to add this service to all the others
he had done him, promising to score it up with the chalk of gratitude
at the tavern of memory. So Corvetto instantly set out heels over head;
and arriving at the ogre's palace, he found that the ogress, whilst her
husband was gone to invite the kinsfolk, was busying herself with
preparing the feast. Then Corvetto entering, with a look of compassion,
said, "Good-day, my good woman! Truly, you are a brave housewife! But
why do you torment the very life out of you in this way? Only yesterday
you were ill in bed, and now you are slaving thus, and have no pity on
your own flesh."

"What would you have me do?" replied the ogress. "I have no one to help
me."

"I am here," answered Corvetto, "ready to help you tooth and nail."

"Welcome, then!" said the ogress; "and as you proffer me so much
kindness, just help me to split four logs of wood."

"With all my heart," answered Corvetto, "but if four logs are not enow,
let me split five." And taking up a newly-ground axe, instead of
striking the wood, he struck the ogress on the neck, and made her fall
to the ground like a pear. Then running quickly to the gate, he dug a
deep hole before the entrance, and covering it over with bushes and
earth, he hid himself behind the gate.

As soon as Corvetto saw the ogre coming with his kinsfolk, he set up a
loud cry in the courtyard, "Stop, stop! I've caught him!" and "Long
live the King of Wide-River." When the ogre heard this challenge, he
ran like mad at Corvetto, to make a hash of him. But rushing furiously
towards the gate, down he tumbled with all his companions, head over
heels to the bottom of the pit, where Corvetto speedily stoned them to
death. Then he shut the door, and took the keys to the King, who,
seeing the valour and cleverness of the lad, in spite of ill-fortune
and the envy and annoyance of the courtiers, gave him his daughter to
wife; so that the crosses of envy had proved rollers to launch
Corvetto's bark of life on the sea of greatness; whilst his enemies
remained confounded and bursting with rage, and went to bed without a
candle; for--

     "The punishment of ill deeds past,
     Though long delay'd, yet comes at last."



XIX

THE BOOBY

An ignorant man who associates with clever people has always been more
praised than a wise man who keeps the company of fools; for as much
profit and fame as one may gain from the former, so much wealth and
honour one may lose by the fault of the latter; and as the proof of the
pudding is in the eating, you will know from the story which I am going
to tell you whether my proposition be true.

There was once a man who was as rich as the sea, but as there can never
be any perfect happiness in this world, he had a son so idle and
good-for-nothing that he could not tell a bean from a cucumber. So
being unable any longer to put up with his folly, he gave him a good
handful of crowns, and sent him to trade in the Levant; for he well
knew that seeing various countries and mixing with divers people awaken
the genius and sharpen the judgment, and make men expert.

Moscione (for that was the name of the son) got on horseback, and began
his journey towards Venice, the arsenal of the wonders of the world, to
embark on board some vessel bound for Cairo; and when he had travelled
a good day's journey, he met with a person who was standing fixed at
the foot of a poplar, to whom he said, "What is your name, my lad?
Whence are you, and what is your trade?" And the lad replied, "My name
is Lightning; I am from Arrowland, and I can run like the wind." "I
should like to see a proof of it," said Moscione; and Lightning
answered, "Wait a moment, and you will see whether it is dust or flour."

When they had stood waiting a little while, a doe came bounding over
the plain, and Lightning, letting her pass on some way, to give her the
more law, darted after her so rapidly and light of foot, that he would
have gone over a place covered with flour without leaving the mark of
his shoe, and in four bounds he came up with her. Moscione, amazed at
this exploit, asked if he would come and live with him, and promised to
pay him royally.

So Lightning consented, and they went on their way together; but they
had not journeyed many miles when they met another youth, to whom
Moscione said, "What is your name, comrade? What country are you from?
And what is your trade?" "My name," replied the lad, "is Quick-ear; I
am from Vale-Curious; and when I put my ear the ground I hear all that
is passing in the world without stirring from the spot. I perceive the
monopolies and agreements of tradespeople to raise the prices of
things, the ill-offices of courtiers, the appointments of lovers, the
plots of robbers, the reports of spies, the complaints of servants, the
gossiping of old women, and the oaths of sailors; so that no one has
ever been able to discover so much as my ears can."

"If that be true," said Moscione, "tell me what they are now saying at
my home."

So the lad put his ear to the ground, and replied, "An old man is
talking to his wife, and saying, 'Praised be Sol in Leo! I have got rid
from my sight of that fellow Moscione, that face of old-fashioned
crockery, that nail in my heart. By travelling through the world he
will at least become a man, and no longer be such a stupid ass, such a
simpleton, such a lose-the-day fellow, such a----'"

"Stop, stop!" cried Moscione, "you tell the truth and I believe you. So
come along with me, for you have found the road to good-luck."

"Well and good!" said the youth. So they all went on together and
travelled ten miles farther, when they met another man, to whom
Moscione said, "What is your name, my brave fellow? Where were you
born? And what can you do in the world?" And the man answered, "My name
is Shoot-straight; I am from Castle Aimwell; and I can shoot with a
crossbow so point-blank as to hit a crab-apple in the middle."

"I should like to see the proof," said Moscione. So the lad charged his
crossbow, took aim, and made a pea leap from the top of a stone;
whereupon Moscione took him also like the others into his company. And
they travelled on another day's journey, till they came to some people
who were building a large pier in the scorching heat of the sun, and
who might well say, "Boy, put water to the wine, for my heart is
burning." So Moscione had compassion on them, and said, "My masters,
how is it you have the head to stand in this furnace, which is fit to
roast a buffalo?" And one of them answered, "Oh, we are as cool as a
rose; for we have a young man here who blows upon us from behind in
such a manner that it seems just as if the west wind were blowing."
"Let me see him, I pray," cried Moscione. So the mason called the lad,
and Moscione said to him, "Tell me, by the life of your father, what is
your name? what country are you from? and what is your profession!" And
the lad replied, "My name is Blow-blast; I am from Windy-land; and I
can make all the winds with my mouth. If you wish for a zephyr, I will
breathe one that will send you in transports; if you wish for a squall,
I will throw down houses."

"Seeing is believing," said Moscione. Whereupon Blow-blast breathed at
first quite gently, so that it seemed to be the wind that blows at
Posilippo towards evening; then turning suddenly to some trees, he sent
forth such a furious blast that it uprooted a row of oaks.

When Moscione saw this he took him for a companion; and travelling on
as far again, he met another lad, to whom he said, "What is your name,
if I may make so bold? Whence are you, if one may ask? And what is your
trade, if it is a fair question?" And the lad answered, "My name is
Strong-back; I am from Valentino; and I have such strength that I can
take a mountain on my back, and it seems to me only a feather."

"If that be the case," said Moscione, "you deserve to be the king of
the custom-house, and you should be chosen for standard-bearer on the
first of May.  But I should like to see a proof of what you say."

Then Strong-back began to load himself with masses of rock, trunks of
trees, and so many other weights that a thousand large waggons could
not have carried them; which, when Moscione saw, he agreed with the lad
to join him.

So they travelled on till they came to Fair-Flower, the King of which
place had a daughter who ran like the wind, and could pass over the
waving corn without bending an ear; and the King had issued a
proclamation that whoever could over-take her in running should have
her to wife, but whoever was left behind should lose his head.

When Moscione arrived in this country and heard the proclamation, he
went straight to the King, and offered to run with his daughter, making
the wise agreement either to win the race or leave his noddle there.
But in the morning he sent to inform the King that he was taken ill,
and being unable to run himself he would send another young man in his
place. "Come who will!" said Ciannetella (for that was the King's
daughter), "I care not a fig--it is all one to me."

So when the great square was filled with people, come to see the race,
insomuch that the men swarmed like ants, and the windows and roofs were
all as full as an egg, Lightning came out and took his station at the
top of the square, waiting for the signal. And lo! forth came
Ciannetella, dressed in a little gown, tucked half-way up her legs, and
a neat and pretty little shoe with a single sole. Then they placed
themselves shoulder to shoulder, and as soon as the tarantara and
too-too of the trumpets was heard, off they darted, running at such a
rate that their heels touched their shoulders, and in truth they seemed
just like hares with the grey-hounds after them, horses broken loose
from the stable, or dogs with kettles tied to their tails. But
Lightning (as he was both by name and nature) left the princess more
than a hand's-breadth behind him, and came first to the goal. Then you
should have heard the huzzaing and shouting, the cries and the uproar,
the whistling and clapping of hands of all the people, bawling out,
"Hurra! Long life to the stranger!" Whereat Ciannetella's face turned
as red as a schoolboy's who is going to be whipped, and she stood lost
in shame and confusion at seeing herself vanquished. But as there were
to be two heats to the race, she fell to planning how to be revenged
for this affront; and going home, she put a charm into a ring of such
power that if any one had it upon his finger his legs would totter so
that he would not be able to walk, much less run; then she sent it as a
present to Lightning, begging him to wear it on his finger for love of
her.

Quick-ear, who heard this trick plotted between the father and
daughter, said nothing, and waited to see the upshot of the affair. And
when, at the trumpeting of the birds, the Sun whipped on the Night, who
sat mounted on the jackass of the Shades, they returned to the field,
where at the usual signal they fell to plying their heels. But if
Ciannetella was like another Atalanta, Lightning had become no less
like an old donkey and a foundered horse, for he could not stir a step.
But Shoot-straight, who saw his comrade's danger, and heard from
Quick-ear how matters stood, laid hold of his crossbow and shot a bolt
so exactly that it hit Lightning's finger, and out flew the stone from
the ring, in which the virtue of the charm lay; whereupon his legs,
that had been tied, were set free, and with four goat-leaps he passed
Ciannetella and won the race.

The King seeing this victory of a blockhead, the palm thus carried off
by a simpleton, the triumph of a fool, bethought himself seriously
whether or no he should give him his daughter; and taking counsel with
the wiseacres of his court, they replied that Ciannetella was not a
mouthful for the tooth of such a miserable dog and lose-the-day bird,
and that, without breaking his word, he might commute the promise of
his daughter for a gift of crowns, which would be more to the taste of
a poor beggar like Moscione than all the women in the world.

This advice pleased the King, and he asked Moscione how much money he
would take instead of the wife who had been promised him. Then
Moscione, after consulting with the others, answered, "I will take as
much gold and silver as one of my comrades can carry on his back." The
king consented; whereupon they brought Strong-back, on whom they began
to load bales of ducats, sacks of patacas, large purses full of crowns,
barrels of copper money, chests full of chains and rings; but the more
they loaded him the firmer he stood, just like a tower, so that the
treasury, the banks, the usurers, and the money-dealers of the city did
not suffice, and he sent to all the great people in every direction to
borrow their silver candlesticks, basins, jugs, plates, trays, and
baskets; and yet all was not enough to make up the full load. At length
they went away, not laden but tired and satisfied.

When the councillors saw what heaps and stores these six miserable dogs
were carrying off, they said to the King that it was a great piece of
assery to load them with all the sinews of his kingdom, and that it
would be well to send people after them to lessen the load of that
Atlas who was carrying on his shoulders a heaven of treasure. The King
gave ear to this advice, and immediately despatched a party of armed
men, foot and horse, to overtake Moscione and his friends. But
Quick-ear, who had heard this counsel, informed his comrades; and while
the dust was rising to the sky from the trampling of those who were
coming to unload the rich cargo, Blow-blast, seeing that things were
come to a bad pass, began to blow at such a rate that he not only made
the enemies fall flat on the ground, but he sent them flying more than
a mile distant, as the north wind does the folks who pass through that
country. So without meeting any more hindrance, Moscione arrived at his
father's house, where he shared the booty with his companions, since,
as the saying goes, a good deed deserves a good meed. So he sent them
away content and happy; but he stayed with his father, rich beyond
measure, and saw himself a simpleton laden with gold, not giving the
lie to the saying--

     "Heaven sends biscuits to him who has no teeth."



XX

THE STONE IN THE COCK'S HEAD

The robber's wife does not always laugh; he who weaves fraud works his
own ruin; there is no deceit which is not at last discovered, no
treachery that does not come to light; walls have ears, and are spies
to rogues; the earth gapes and discovers theft, as I will prove to you
if you pay attention.

There was once in the city of Dark-Grotto a certain man named Minecco
Aniello, who was so persecuted by fortune that all his fixtures and
moveables consisted only of a short-legged cock, which he had reared
upon bread-crumbs. But one morning, being pinched with appetite (for
hunger drives the wolf from the thicket), he took it into his head to
sell the cock, and, taking it to the market, he met two thievish
magicians, with whom he made a bargain, and sold it for half-a-crown.
So they told him to take it to their house, and they would count him
out the money. Then the magicians went their way, and, Minecco Aniello
following them, overheard them talking gibberish together and saying,
"Who would have told us that we should meet with such a piece of good
luck, Jennarone? This cock will make our fortune to a certainty by the
stone which, you know, he has in his pate. We will quickly have it set
in a ring, and then we shall have everything we can ask for."

"Be quiet, Jacovuccio," answered Jennarone; "I see myself rich and can
hardly believe it, and I am longing to twist the cock's neck and give a
kick in the face of beggary, for in this world virtue without money
goes for nothing, and a man is judged of by his coat."

When Minecco Aniello, who had travelled about in the world and eaten
bread from more than one oven, heard this gibberish he turned on his
heel and scampered off. And, running home, he twisted the cock's neck,
and opening its head found the stone, which he had instantly set in a
brass ring. Then, to make a trial of its virtue, he said, "I wish to
become a youth eighteen years old."

Hardly had he uttered the words when his blood began to flow more
quickly, his nerves became stronger, his limbs firmer, his flesh
fresher, his eyes more fiery, his silver hairs were turned into gold,
his mouth, which was a sacked village, became peopled with teeth; his
beard, which was as thick as a wood, became like a nursery garden--in
short, he was changed to a most beautiful youth. Then he said again, "I
wish for a splendid palace, and to marry the King's daughter." And lo!
there instantly appeared a palace of incredible magnificence, in which
were apartments that would amaze you, columns to astound you, pictures
to fill you with wonder; silver glittered around, and gold was trodden
underfoot; the jewels dazzled your eyes; the servants swarmed like
ants, the horses and carriages were not to be counted--in short, there
was such a display of riches that the King stared at the sight, and
willingly gave him his daughter Natalizia.

Meanwhile the magicians, having discovered Minecco Aniello's great
wealth, laid a plan to rob him of his good fortune, so they made a
pretty little doll which played and danced by means of clockwork; and,
dressing themselves like merchants, they went to Pentella, the daughter
of Minecco Aniello, under pretext of selling it to her. When Pentella
saw the beautiful little thing she asked them what price they put upon
it, and they replied that it was not to be bought with money, but that
she might have it and welcome if she would only do them a favour, which
was to let them see the make of the ring which her father possessed, in
order to take the model and make another like it, then they would give
her the doll without any payment at all.

Pentella, who had never heard the proverb, "Think well before you buy
anything cheap," instantly accepted this offer, and, bidding them
return the next morning, she promised to ask her father to lend her the
ring. So the magicians went away, and when her father returned home
Pentella coaxed and caressed him, until at last she persuaded him to
give her the ring, making the excuse that she was sad at heart, and
wished to divert her mind a little.

When the next day came, as soon as the scavenger of the Sun sweeps the
last traces of the Shades from the streets and squares of Heaven, the
magicians returned, and no sooner had they the ring in their hands than
they instantly vanished, and not a trace of them was to be seen, so
that poor Pentella had like to have died with terror.

But when the magicians came to a wood, where the branches of some of
the trees were dancing the sword-dance, and the boughs of the others
were playing together at hot-cockles, they desired the ring to destroy
the spell by which the old man had become young again. And instantly
Minecco Aniello, who was just at that moment in the presence of the
King, was suddenly seen to grow hoary, his hairs to whiten, his
forehead to wrinkle, his eyebrows to grow bristly, his eyes to sink in,
his face to be furrowed, his mouth to become toothless, his beard to
grow bushy, his back to be humped, his legs to tremble, and, above all,
his glittering garments to turn to rags and tatters.

The King, seeing the miserable beggar seated beside him at table,
ordered him to be instantly driven away with blows and hard words,
whereupon Aniello, thus suddenly fallen from his good luck, went
weeping to his daughter, and asked for the ring in order to set matters
to rights again. But when he heard the fatal trick played by the false
merchants he was ready to throw himself out of the window, cursing a
thousand times the ignorance of his daughter, who, for the sake of a
silly doll had turned him into a miserable scarecrow, and for a paltry
thing of rags had brought him to rags himself, adding that he was
resolved to go wandering about the world like a bad shilling, until he
should get tidings of those merchants. So saying he threw a cloak about
his neck and a wallet on his back, drew his sandals on his feet, took a
staff in his hand, and, leaving his daughter all chilled and frozen, he
set out walking desperately on and on until he arrived at the kingdom
of Deep-Hole, inhabited by the mice, where, being taken for a big spy
of the cats, he was instantly led before Rosecone, the King. Then the
King asked him who he was, whence he came, and what he was about in
that country; and Minecco Aniello, after first giving the King a
cheese-paring, in sign of tribute, related to him all his misfortunes
one by one, and concluded by saying that he was resolved to continue
his toil and travel, until he should get tidings of those thievish
villains who had robbed him of so precious a jewel, taking from him at
once the flower of his youth, the source of his wealth, and the prop of
his honour.

At these words Rosecone felt pity nibbling at his heart, and, wishing
to comfort the poor man, he summoned the eldest mice to a council, and
asked their opinions on the misfortunes of Minecco Aniello, commanding
them to use all diligence and endeavour to obtain some tidings of these
false merchants. Now, among the rest, it happened that Rudolo and
Saltariello were present--mice who were well used to the ways of the
world, and had lived for six years at a tavern of great resort hard by;
and they said to Aniello, "Be of good heart, comrade! matters will turn
out better than you imagine. You must know that one day, when we were
in a room in the hostelry of the  Horn,' where the most famous men in
the world lodge and make merry, two persons from Hook Castle came in,
who, after they had eaten their fill and had seen the bottom of their
flagon, fell to talking of a trick they had played a certain old man of
Dark-Grotto, and how they had cheated him out of a stone of great
value, which one of them, named Jennarone, said he would never take
from his finger, that he might not run the risk of losing it as the old
man's daughter had done."

When Minecco Aniello heard this, he told the two mice that if they
would trust themselves to accompany him to the country where these
rogues lived and recover the ring for him, he would give them a good
lot of cheese and salt meat, which they might eat and enjoy with his
majesty the King. Then the two mice, after bargaining for a reward,
offered to go over sea and mountain, and, taking leave of his mousy
majesty, they set out.

After journeying a long way they arrived at Hook Castle, where the mice
told Minecco Aniello to remain under some trees on the brink of a
river, which like a leech drew the moisture from the land and
discharged it into the sea. Then they went to seek the house of the
magicians, and, observing that Jennarone never took the ring from his
finger, they sought to gain the victory by stratagem. So, waiting till
Night had dyed with purple grape-juice the sunburnt face of Heaven, and
the magicians had gone to bed and were fast asleep, Rudolo began to
nibble the finger on which the ring was, whereupon Jennarone, feeling
the smart, took the ring off and laid it on a table at the head of the
bed. But as soon as Saltariello saw this, he popped the ring into his
mouth, and in four skips he was off to find Minecco Aniello, who, with
even greater joy than a man at the gallows feels when a pardon arrives,
instantly turned the magicians into two jackasses; and, turning his
mantle over one of them, he bestrode him like a noble count, then he
loaded the other with cheese and bacon, and set off toward Deep-Hole,
where, having given presents to the King and his councillors, he
thanked them for all the good fortune he had received by their
assistance, praying Heaven that no mouse-trap might ever lay hold of
them, that no cat might ever harm them, and that no arsenic might ever
poison them.

Then, leaving that country, Minecco Aniello returned to Dark-Grotto
even more handsome than before, and was received by the King and his
daughter with the greatest affection in the world. And, having ordered
the two asses to be cast down from a rock, he lived happily with his
wife, never more taking the ring from his finger that he might not
again commit such a folly, for--

     "The cat who has been burnt with fire ever after fears the cold
hearthstone."



XXI

THE THREE ENCHANTED PRINCES

Once upon a time the King of Green-Bank had three daughters, who were
perfect jewels, with whom three sons of the King of Fair-Meadow were
desperately in love. But these Princes having been changed into animals
by the spell of a fairy, the King of Green-Bank disdained to give them
his daughters to wife. Whereupon the first, who was a beautiful Falcon,
called together all the birds to a council; and there came the
chaffinches, tomtits, woodpeckers, fly-catchers, jays, blackbirds,
cuckoos, thrushes, and every other kind of bird. And when they were all
assembled at his summons, he ordered them to destroy all the blossoms
on the trees of Green-Bank, so that not a flower or leaf should remain.
The second Prince, who was a Stag, summoning all the goats, rabbits,
hares, hedgehogs, and other animals of that country, laid waste all the
corn-fields so that there was not a single blade of grass or corn left.
The third Prince, who was a Dolphin, consulting together with a hundred
monsters of the sea, made such a tempest arise upon the coast that not
a boat escaped.

Now the King saw that matters were going from bad to worse, and that he
could not remedy the mischief which these three wild lovers were
causing; so he resolved to get out of his trouble, and made up his mind
to give them his daughters to wife; and thereupon, without wanting
either feasts or songs, they carried their brides off and out of the
kingdom.

On parting from her daughters, Granzolla the Queen gave each of them a
ring, one exactly like the other, telling them that if they happened to
be separated, and after a while to meet again, or to see any of their
kinsfolk, they would recognise one another by means of these rings. So
taking their leave they departed. And the Falcon carried Fabiella, who
was the eldest of the sisters, to the top of a mountain, which was so
high that, passing the confines of the clouds, it reached with a dry
head to a region where it never rains; and there, leading her to a most
beautiful palace, she lived like a Queen.

The Stag carried Vasta, the second sister, into a wood, which was so
thick that the Shades, when summoned by the Night, could not find their
way out to escort her. There he placed her, as befitted her rank, in a
wonderfully splendid house with a garden.

The Dolphin swam with Rita, the third sister, on his back into the
middle of the sea, where, upon a large rock, he showed her a mansion in
which three crowned Kings might live.

Meanwhile Granzolla gave birth to a fine little boy, whom they named
Tittone. And when he was fifteen years old, hearing his mother
lamenting continually that she never heard any tidings of her three
daughters, who were married to three animals; he took it into his head
to travel through the world until he should obtain some news of them.
So after begging and entreating his father and mother for a long time,
they granted him permission, bidding him take for his journey
attendants and everything needful and befitting a Prince; and the Queen
also gave him another ring similar to those she had given to her
daughters.

Tittone went his way, and left no corner of Italy, not a nook of
France, nor any part of Spain unsearched. Then he passed through
England, and traversed Slavonia, and visited Poland, and, in short,
travelled both east and west. At length, leaving all his servants, some
at the taverns and some at the hospitals, he set out without a farthing
in his pocket, and came to the top of the mountain where dwelt the
Falcon and Fabiella. And as he stood there, beside himself with
amazement, contemplating the beauty of the palace--the corner-stones of
which were of porphyry, the walls of alabaster, the windows of gold,
and the tiles of silver--his sister observed him, and ordering him to
be called, she demanded who he was, whence he came, and what chance had
brought him to that country. When Tittone told her his country, his
father and mother, and his name, Fabiella knew him to be her brother,
and the more when she compared the ring upon his finger with that which
her mother had given her; and embracing him with great joy, she
concealed him, fearing that her husband would be angry when he returned
home.

As soon as the Falcon came home, Fabiella began to tell him that a
great longing had come over her to see her parents. And the Falcon
answered, "Let the wish pass, wife; for that cannot be unless the
humour takes me."

"Let us at least," said Fabiella, "send to fetch one of my kinsfolk to
keep my company."

"And, pray, who will come so far to see you?" replied the Falcon.

"Nay, but if any one should come," added Fabiella, "would you be
displeased?"

"Why should I be displeased?" said the Falcon, "it would be enough that
he were one of your kinsfolk to make me take him to my heart."

When Fabiella heard this she took courage, and calling to her brother
to come forth, she presented him to the Falcon, who exclaimed, "Five
and five are ten; love passes through the glove, and water through the
boot. A hearty welcome to you! you are master in this house; command,
and do just as you like." Then he gave orders that Tittone should be
served and treated with the same honour as himself.

Now when Tittone had stayed a fortnight on the mountain, it came into
his head to go forth and seek his other sisters. So taking leave of
Fabiella and his brother-in-law, the Falcon gave him one of his
feathers, saying, "Take this and prize it, my dear Tittone; for you may
one day be in trouble, and you will then esteem it a treasure.
Enough--take good care of it; and if ever you meet with any mishap,
throw it on the ground, and say,  Come hither, come hither!' and you
shall have cause to thank me."

Tittone wrapped the feather up in a sheet of paper, and, putting it in
his pocket, after a thousand ceremonies departed. And travelling on and
on a very long way, he arrived at last at the wood where the Stag lived
with Vasta; and going, half-dead with hunger, into the garden to pluck
some fruit, his sister saw him, and recognised him in the same manner
as Fabiella had done. Then she presented Tittone to her husband, who
received him with the greatest friendship, and treated him truly like a
Prince.

At the end of a fortnight, when Tittone wished to depart, and go in
search of his other sister, the Stag gave him one of his hairs,
repeating the same words as the Falcon had spoken about the feather.
And setting out on his way, with a bagful of crown-pieces which the
Falcon had given him, and as many more which the Stag gave him, he
walked on and on, until he came to the end of the earth, where, being
stopped by the sea and unable to walk any further, he took ship,
intending to seek through all the islands for tidings of his sister. So
setting sail, he went about and about, until at length he was carried
to an island, where lived the Dolphin with Rita. And no sooner had he
landed, than his sister saw and recognised him in the same manner as
the others had done, and he was received by her husband with all
possible affection.

Now after a while Tittone wished to set out again to go and visit his
father and mother, whom he had not seen for so long a time. So the
Dolphin gave him one of his scales, telling him the same as the others
had; and Tittone, mounting a horse, set out on his travels. But he had
hardly proceeded half a mile from the seashore, when entering a
wood--the abode of Fear and the Shades, where a continual fair of
darkness and terror was kept up--he found a great tower in the middle
of a lake, whose waters were kissing the feet of the trees, and
entreating them not to let the Sun witness their pranks. At a window in
the tower Tittone saw a most beautiful maiden sitting at the feet of a
hideous dragon, who was asleep. When the damsel saw Tittone, she said
in a low and piteous voice, "O noble youth, sent perchance by heaven to
comfort me in my miseries in this place, where the face of a Christian
is never seen, release me from the power of this tyrannical serpent,
who has carried me off from my father, the King of Bright-Valley, and
shut me up in this frightful tower, where I must die a miserable death."

"Alas, my beauteous lady!" replied Tittone, "what can I do to serve
thee? Who can pass this lake? Who can climb this tower? Who can
approach yon horrid dragon, that carries terror in his look, sows fear,
and causes dismay to spring up? But softly, wait a minute, and we'll
find a way with another's help to drive this serpent away. Step by
step--the more haste, the worse speed: we shall soon see whether  tis
egg or wind." And so saying he threw the feather, the hair, and the
scale, which his brothers-in-law had given him, on the ground,
exclaiming, "Come hither, come hither!" And falling on the earth like
drops of summer rain, which makes the frogs spring up, suddenly there
appeared the Falcon, the Stag, and the Dolphin, who cried out all
together, "Behold us here! what are your commands?"

When Tittone saw this, he said with great joy, "I wish for nothing but
to release this poor damsel from the claws of yon dragon, to take her
away from this tower, to lay it all in ruins, and to carry this
beautiful lady home with me as my wife."

"Hush!" answered the Falcon, "for the bean springs up where you least
expect it. We'll soon make him dance upon a sixpence, and take good
care that he shall have little ground enough."

"Let us lose no time," said the Stag, "troubles and macaroni are
swallowed hot."

So the Falcon summoned a large flock of griffins, who, flying to the
window of the tower, carried off the damsel, bearing her over the lake
to where Tittone was standing with his three brothers-in-law; and if
from afar she appeared a moon, believe me, when near she looked truly
like a sun, she was so beautiful.

Whilst Tittone was embracing her and telling her how he loved her, the
dragon awoke; and, rushing out of the window, he came swimming across
the lake to devour Tittone. But the Stag instantly called up a squadron
of lions, tigers, panthers, bears, and wild-cats, who, falling upon the
dragon, tore him in pieces with their claws. Then Tittone wishing to
depart, the Dolphin said, "I likewise desire to do something to serve
you." And in order that no trace should remain of the frightful and
accursed place, he made the sea rise so high that, overflowing its
bounds, it attacked the tower furiously, and overthrew it to its
foundations.

When Tittone saw these things, he thanked the animals in the best
manner he could, telling the damsel at the same time that she ought to
do so too, as it was by their aid she had escaped from peril. But the
animals answered, "Nay, we ought rather to thank this beauteous lady,
since she is the means of restoring us to our proper shapes; for a
spell was laid upon us at our birth, caused by our mother's having
offended a fairy, and we were compelled to remain in the form of
animals until we should have freed the daughter of a King from some
great trouble. And now behold the time is arrived which we have longed
for; the fruit is ripe, and we already feel new spirit in our breasts,
new blood in our veins." So saying, they were changed into three
handsome youths, and one after another they embraced their
brother-in-law, and shook hands with the lady, who was in an ecstasy of
joy.

When Tittone saw this, he was on the point of fainting away; and
heaving a deep sigh, he said, "O Heavens! why have not my mother and
father a share in this happiness? They would be out of their wits with
joy were they to see such graceful and handsome sons-in-law before
their eyes."

"Nay," answered the Princes, "'tis not yet night; the shame at seeing
ourselves so transformed obliged us to flee from the sight of men; but
now that, thank Heaven! we can appear in the world again, we will all
go and live with our wives under one roof, and spend our lives merrily.
Let us, therefore, set out instantly, and before the Sun to-morrow
morning unpacks the bales of his rays at the custom-house of the East,
our wives shall be with you."

So saying, in order that they might not have to go on foot--for there
was only an old broken-down mare which Tittone had brought--the
brothers caused a most beautiful coach to appear, drawn by six lions,
in which they all five seated themselves; and having travelled the
whole day, they came in the evening to a tavern, where, whilst the
supper was being prepared, they passed the time in reading all the
proofs of men's ignorance which were scribbled upon the walls. At
length, when all had eaten their fill and retired to rest, the three
youths, feigning to go to bed, went out and walked about the whole
night long, till in the morning, when the Stars, like bashful maidens,
retire from the gaze of the Sun, they found themselves in the same inn
with their wives, whereupon there was a great embracing, and a joy
beyond the beyonds. Then they all eight seated themselves in the same
coach, and after a long journey arrived at Green-Bank, where they were
received with incredible affection by the King and Queen, who had not
only regained the capital of four children, whom they had considered
lost, but likewise the interest of three sons-in-law and a
daughter-in-law, who were verily four columns of the Temple of Beauty.
And when the news of the adventures of their children was brought to
the Kings of Fair-Meadow and Bright-Valley, they both came to the
feasts which were made, adding the rich ingredient of joy to the
porridge of their satisfaction, and receiving a full recompense for all
their past misfortunes; for--

     "One hour of joy dispels the cares
     And sufferings of a thousand years."



XXII

THE DRAGON

He who seeks the injury of another finds his own hurt; and he who
spreads the snares of treachery and deceit often falls into them
himself; as you shall hear in the story of a queen, who with her own
hands constructed the trap in which she was caught by the foot.

There was one time a King of High-Shore, who practised such tyranny and
cruelty that, whilst he was once gone on a visit of pleasure to a
castle at a distance from the city, his royal seat was usurped by a
certain sorceress. Whereupon, having consulted a wooden statue which
used to give oracular responses, it answered that he would recover his
dominions when the sorceress should lose her sight. But seeing that the
sorceress, besides being well guarded, knew at a glance the people whom
he sent to annoy her, and did dog's justice upon them, he became quite
desperate, and out of spite to her he killed all the women of that
place whom he could get into his hands.

Now after hundreds and hundreds had been led thither by their ill-luck,
only to lose their lives, there chanced, among others, to come a maiden
named Porziella, the most beautiful creature that could be seen on the
whole earth, and the King could not help falling in love with her and
making her his wife. But he was so cruel and spiteful to women that,
after a while, he was going to kill her like the rest; but just as he
was raising the dagger a bird let fall a certain root upon his arm, and
he was seized with such a trembling that the weapon fell from his hand.
This bird was a fairy, who, a few days before, having gone to sleep in
a wood, where beneath the tent of the Shades Fear kept watch and defied
the Sun's heat, a certain satyr was about to rob her when she was
awakened by Porziella, and for this kindness she continually followed
her steps in order to make her a return.

When the King saw this, he thought that the beauty of Porziella's face
had arrested his arm and bewitched the dagger to prevent its piercing
her as it had done so many others. He resolved, therefore, not to make
the attempt a second time, but that she should die built up in a garret
of his palace. No sooner said than done: the unhappy creature was
enclosed within four walls, without having anything to eat or drink,
and left to waste away and die little by little.

The bird, seeing her in this wretched state, consoled her with kind
words, bidding her be of good cheer, and promising, in return for the
great kindness she had done for her, to aid her if necessary with her
very life. In spite, however, of all the entreaties of Porziella, the
bird would never tell her who she was, but only said that she was under
obligations to her, and would leave nothing undone to serve her. And
seeing that the poor girl was famished with hunger, she flew out and
speedily returned with a pointed knife which she had taken from the
king's pantry, and told her to make a hole in the corner of the floor
just over the kitchen, through which she would regularly bring her food
to sustain her life. So Porziella bored away until she had made a
passage for the bird, who, watching till the cook was gone out to fetch
a pitcher of water from the well, went down through the hole, and
taking a fine fowl that was cooking at the fire, brought it to
Porziella; then to relieve her thirst, not knowing how to carry her any
drink, she flew to the pantry, where there was a quantity of grapes
hanging, and brought her a fine bunch; and this she did regularly for
many days.

Meanwhile Porziella gave birth to a fine little boy, whom she suckled
and reared with the constant aid of the bird. And when he was grown
big, the fairy advised his mother to make the hole larger, and to raise
so many boards of the floor as would allow Miuccio (for so the child
was called) to pass through; and then, after letting him down with some
cords which the bird brought, to put the boards back into their place,
that it might not be seen where he came from. So Porziella did as the
bird directed her; and as soon as the cook was gone out, she let down
her son, desiring him never to tell whence he came nor whose son he was.

When the cook returned and saw such a fine little boy, he asked him who
he was, whence he came, and what he wanted; whereupon, the child,
remembering his mother's advice, said that he was a poor forlorn boy
who was looking about for a master. As they were talking, the butler
came in, and seeing the spritely little fellow, he thought he would
make a pretty page for the King. So he led him to the royal apartments;
and when the King saw him look so handsome and lovely that he appeared
a very jewel, he was vastly pleased with him, and took him into his
service as a page and to his heart as a son, and had him taught all the
exercises befitting a cavalier, so that Miuccio grew up the most
accomplished one in the court, and the King loved him much better than
his stepson. Now the King's stepmother, who was really the queen, on
this account began to take a dislike to him, and to hold him in
aversion; and her envy and malice gained ground just in proportion as
the favours and kindness which the King bestowed on Miuccio cleared the
way for them; so she resolved to soap the ladder of his fortune in
order that he should tumble down from top to bottom.

Accordingly one evening, when the King and his stepmother had tuned
their instruments together and were making music of their discourse,
the Queen told the King that Miuccio had boasted he would build three
castles in the air. So the next morning, at the time when the Moon, the
school-mistress of the Shades, gives a holiday to her scholars for the
festival of the Sun, the King, either from surprise or to gratify the
old Queen, ordered Miuccio to be called, and commanded him forthwith to
build the three castles in the air as he had promised, or else he would
make him dance a jig in the air.

When Miuccio heard this he went to his chamber and began to lament
bitterly, seeing what glass the favour of princes is, and how short a
time it lasts. And while he was weeping thus, lo! the bird came, and
said to him, "Take heart, Miuccio, and fear not while you have me by
your side, for I am able to draw you out of the fire." Then she
directed him to take pasteboard and glue and make three large castles;
and calling up three large griffins, she tied a castle to each, and
away they flew up into the air. Thereupon Miuccio called the King, who
came running with all his court to see the sight; and when he saw the
ingenuity of Miuccio he had a still greater affection for him, and
lavished on him caresses of the other world, which added snow to the
envy of the Queen and fire to her rage, seeing that all her plans
failed; insomuch that, both sleeping and waking, she was for ever
thinking of some way to remove this thorn from her eyes. So at last,
after some days, she said to the King, "Son, the time is now come for
us to return to our former greatness and the pleasures of past times,
since Miuccio has offered to blind the sorceress, and by the
disbursement of her eyes to make you recover your lost kingdom."

The King, who felt himself touched in the sore place, called for
Miuccio that very instant, and said to him, "I am greatly surprised
that, notwithstanding all my love for you, and that you have the power
to restore me to the seat from which I have fallen, you remain thus
careless, instead of endeavouring to relieve me from the misery I am
in--reduced thus from a kingdom to a wood, from a city to a paltry
castle, and from commanding so great a people to be hardly waited on by
a parcel of half-starved menials. If, therefore, you do not wish me
ill, run now at once and blind the eyes of the fairy who has possession
of my property, for by putting out her lanterns you will light the
lamps of my honour that are now dark and dismal."

When Miuccio heard this proposal he was about to reply that the King
was ill-informed and had mistaken him, as he was neither a raven to
pick out eyes nor an auger to bore holes; but the King said, "No more
words--so I will have it, so let it be done! Remember now, that in the
mint of this brain of mine I have the balance ready; in one scale the
reward, if you do what I tell you; in the other the punishment, if you
neglect doing what I command."

Miuccio, who could not butt against a rock, and had to do with a man
who was not to be moved, went into a corner to bemoan himself; and the
bird came to him and said, "Is it possible, Miuccio, that you will
always be drowning yourself in a tumbler of water? If I were dead
indeed you could not make more fuss. Do you not know that I have more
regard for your life than for my own? Therefore don't lose courage;
come with me, and you shall see what I can do." So saying off she flew,
and alighted in the wood, where as soon as she began to chirp, there
came a large flock of birds about her, to whom she told the story,
assuring them that whoever would venture to deprive the sorceress of
sight should have from her a safeguard against the talons of the hawks
and kites, and a letter of protection against the guns, crossbows,
longbows, and bird-lime of the fowlers.

There was among them a swallow who had made her nest against a beam of
the royal palace, and who hated the sorceress, because, when making her
accursed conjurations, she had several times driven her out of the
chamber with her fumigations; for which reason, partly out of a desire
of revenge, and partly to gain the reward that the bird promised, she
offered herself to perform the service. So away she flew like lightning
to the city, and entering the palace, found the fairy lying on a couch,
with two damsels fanning her. Then the swallow came, and alighting
directly over the fairy, pecked out her eyes. Whereupon the fairy, thus
seeing night at midday, knew that by this closing of the custom-house
the merchandise of the kingdom was all lost; and uttering yells, as of
a condemned soul, she abandoned the sceptre and went off to hide
herself in a certain cave, where she knocked her head continually
against the wall, until at length she ended her days.

When the sorceress was gone, the councillors sent ambassadors to the
King, praying him to come back to his castle, since the blinding of the
sorceress had caused him to see this happy day. And at the same time
they arrived came also Miuccio, who, by the bird's direction, said to
the King, "I have served you to the best of my power; the sorceress is
blinded, the kingdom is yours. Wherefore, if I deserve recompense for
this service, I wish for no other than to be left to my ill-fortune,
without being again exposed to these dangers."

But the King, embracing him with great affection, bade him put on his
cap and sit beside him; and how the Queen was enraged at this, Heaven
knows, for by the bow of many colours that appeared in her face might
be known the wind of the storm that was brewing in her heart against
poor Miuccio.

Not far from this castle lived a most ferocious dragon, who was born
the same hour with the Queen; and the astrologers being called by her
father to astrologise on this event, said that his daughter would be
safe as long as the dragon was safe, and that when one died, the other
would of necessity die also. One thing alone could bring back the Queen
to life, and that was to anoint her temples, chest, nostrils, and pulse
with the blood of the same dragon.

Now the Queen, knowing the strength and fury of this animal, resolved
to send Miuccio into his claws, well assured that the beast would make
but a mouthful of him, and that he would be like a strawberry in the
throat of a bear. So turning to the King, she said, "Upon my word, this
Miuccio is the treasure of your house, and you would be ungrateful
indeed if you did not love him, especially as he had expressed his
desire to kill the dragon, who, though he is my brother, is
nevertheless your enemy; and I care more for a hair of your head than
for a hundred brothers."

The King, who hated the dragon mortally, and knew not how to remove him
out of his sight, instantly called Miuccio, and said to him, "I know
that you can put your hand to whatever you will; therefore, as you have
done so much, grant me yet another pleasure, and then turn me
whithersoever you will. Go this very instant and kill the dragon; for
you will do me a singular service, and I will reward you well for it."

Miuccio at these words was near losing his senses, and as soon as he
was able to speak, he said to the King, "Alas, what a headache have you
given me by your continual teasing! Is my life a black goat-skin rug
that you are for ever wearing it away thus? This is not a pared pear
ready to drop into one's mouth, but a dragon, that tears with his
claws, breaks to pieces with his head, crushes with his tail, crunches
with his teeth, poisons with his eyes, and kills with his breath.
Wherefore do you want to send me to death? Is this the sinecure you
give me for having given you a kingdom? Who is the wicked soul that has
set this die on the table? What son of perdition has taught you these
capers and put these words into your mouth?" Then the King, who,
although he let himself be tossed to and fro as light as a ball, was
firmer than a rock in keeping to what he had once said, stamped with
his feet, and exclaimed, "After all you have done, do you fail at the
last? But no more words; go, rid my kingdom of this plague, unless you
would have me rid you of life."

Poor Miuccio, who thus received one minute a favour, at another a
threat, now a pat on the face, and now a kick, now a kind word, now a
cruel one, reflected how mutable court fortune is, and would fain have
been without the acquaintance of the King. But knowing that to reply to
great men is a folly, and like plucking a lion by the beard, he
withdrew, cursing his fate, which had led him to the court only to
curtail the days of his life. And as he was sitting on one of the
door-steps, with his head between his knees, washing his shoes with his
tears and warming the ground with his sighs, behold the bird came
flying with a plant in her beak, and throwing it to him, said, "Get up,
Miuccio, and take courage! for you are not going to play at  unload the
ass' with your days, but at backgammon with the life of the dragon.
Take this plant, and when you come to the cave of that horrid animal,
throw it in, and instantly such a drowsiness will come over him that he
will fall fast asleep; whereupon, nicking and sticking him with a good
knife, you may soon make an end of him. Then come away, for things will
turn out better than you think."

"Enough!" cried Miuccio, "I know what I carry under my belt; we have
more time than money, and he who has time has life." So saying, he got
up, and sticking a pruning-knife in his belt and taking the plant, he
went his way to the dragon's cave, which was under a mountain of such
goodly growth, that the three mountains that were steps to the Giants
would not have reached up to its waist. When he came there, he threw
the plant into the cave, and instantly a deep sleep laid hold on the
dragon, and Miuccio began to cut him in pieces.

Now just at the time that he was busied thus, the Queen felt a cutting
pain at her heart; and seeing herself brought to a bad pass, she
perceived her error in having purchased death with ready money. So she
called her stepson and told him what the astrologers had predicted--how
her life depended on that of the dragon, and how she feared that
Miuccio had killed him, for she felt herself gradually sliding away.
Then the King replied, "If you knew that the life of the dragon was the
prop of your life and the root of your days, why did you make me send
Miuccio? Who is in fault? You must have done yourself the mischief, and
you must suffer for it; you have broken the glass, and you may pay the
cost." And the Queen answered, "I never thought that such a stripling
could have the skill and strength to overthrow an animal which made
nothing of an army, and I expected that he would have left his rags
there. But since I reckoned without my host, and the bark of my
projects is gone out of its course, do me one kindness if you love me.
When I am dead, take a sponge dipped in the blood of this dragon and
anoint with it all the extremities of my body before you bury me."

"That is but a small thing for the love I bear you," replied the King;
"and if the blood of the dragon is not enough, I will add my own to
give you satisfaction." The Queen was about to thank him, but the
breath left her with the speech; for just then Miuccio had made an end
of scoring the dragon.

No sooner had Miuccio come into the King's presence with the news of
what he had done than the King ordered him to go back for the dragon's
blood; but being curious to see the deed done by Miuccio's hand, he
followed him. And as Miuccio was going out of the palace gate, the bird
met him, and said, "Whither are you going?" and Miuccio answered, "I am
going whither the King sends me; he makes me fly backwards and forwards
like a shuttle, and never lets me rest an hour." "What to do?" said the
bird. "To fetch the blood of the dragon," said Miuccio. And the bird
replied, "Ah, wretched youth! this dragon's blood will be bull's blood
to you, and make you burst; for this blood will cause to spring up
again the evil seed of all your misfortunes. The Queen is continually
exposing you to new dangers that you may lose your life; and the King,
who lets this odious creature put the pack-saddle on him, orders you,
like a castaway, to endanger your person, which is his own flesh and
blood and a shoot of his stem. But the wretched man does not know you,
though the inborn affection he bears you should have betrayed your
kindred. Moreover, the services you have rendered the King, and the
gain to himself of so handsome a son and heir, ought to obtain favour
for unhappy Porziella, your mother, who has now for fourteen years been
buried alive in a garret, where is seen a temple of beauty built up
within a little chamber."

While the fairy was thus speaking, the King, who had heard every word,
stepped forward to learn the truth of the matter better; and finding
that Miuccio was his own and Porziella's son, and that Porziella was
still alive in the garret, he instantly gave orders that she should be
set free and brought before him. And when he saw her looking more
beautiful than ever, owing to the care taken of her by the bird, he
embraced her with the greatest affection, and was never satisfied with
pressing to his heart first the mother and then the son, praying
forgiveness of Porziella for his ill-treatment of her, and of his son
for all the dangers to which he had exposed him. Then he ordered her to
be clothed in the richest robes, and had her crowned Queen before all
the people. And when the King heard that her preservation, and the
escape of his son from so many dangers were entirely owing to the bird,
which had given food to the one and counsel to the other, he offered
her his kingdom and his life. But the bird said she desired no other
reward for her services than to have Miuccio for a husband; and as she
uttered the words she was changed into a beautiful maiden, and, to the
great joy and satisfaction of the King and Porziella, she was given to
Miuccio to wife. Then the newly-married couple, to give still greater
festivals, went their way to their own kingdom, where they were
anxiously expected, every one ascribing this good fortune to the fairy,
for the kindness that Porziella had done her; for at the end of the
end--

     "A good deed is never lost."



XXIII

THE TWO CAKES

I have always heard say, that he who gives pleasure finds it: the bell
of Manfredonia says, "Give me, I give thee": he who does not bait the
hook of the affections with courtesy never catches the fish of
kindness; and if you wish to hear the proof of this, listen to my
story, and then say whether the covetous man does not always lose more
than the liberal one.

There were once two sisters, named Luceta and Troccola, who had two
daughters, Marziella and Puccia. Marziella was as fair to look upon as
she was good at heart; whilst, on the contrary, Puccia by the same rule
had a face of ugliness and a heart of pestilence, but the girl
resembled her parent, for Troccola was a harpy within and a very
scare-crow without.

Now it happened that Luceta had occasion to boil some parsnips, in
order to fry them with green sauce; so she said to her daughter,
"Marziella, my dear, go to the well and fetch me a pitcher of water."

"With all my heart, mother," replied the girl, "but if you love me give
me a cake, for I should like to eat it with a draught of the fresh
water."

"By all means," said the mother; so she took from a basket that hung
upon a hook a beautiful cake (for she had baked a batch the day
before), and gave it to Marziella, who set the pitcher on a pad upon
her head, and went to the fountain, which like a charlatan upon a
marble bench, to the music of the falling water, was selling secrets to
drive away thirst. And as she was stooping down to fill her pitcher, up
came a hump-backed old woman, and seeing the beautiful cake, which
Marziella was just going to bite, she said to her, "My pretty girl,
give me a little piece of your cake, and may Heaven send you good
fortune!"

Marziella, who was as generous as a queen, replied, "Take it all, my
good woman, and I am only sorry that it is not made of sugar and
almonds, for I would equally give it you with all my heart."

The old woman, seeing Marziella's kindness, said to her, "Go, and may
Heaven reward you for the goodness you have shown me! and I pray all
the stars that you may ever be content and happy; that when you breathe
roses and jessamines may fall from your mouth; that when you comb your
locks pearls and garnets may fall from them, and when you set your foot
on the ground lilies and violets may spring up."

Marziella thanked the old woman, and went her way home, where her
mother, having cooked a bit of supper, they paid the natural debt to
the body, and thus ended the day. And the next morning, when the Sun
displayed in the market-place of the celestial fields the merchandise
of light which he had brought from the East, as Marziella was combing
her hair, she saw a shower of pearls and garnets fall from it into her
lap; whereupon calling her mother with great joy, they put them all
into a basket, and Luceta went to sell a great part of them to a
usurer, who was a friend of hers. Meanwhile Troccola came to see her
sister, and finding Marziella in great delight and busied with the
pearls, she asked her how, when, and where she had gotten them. But the
maiden, who did not understand the ways of the world, and had perhaps
never heard the proverb, "Do not all you are able, eat not all you
wish, spend not all you have, and tell not all you know," related the
whole affair to her aunt, who no longer cared to await her sister's
return, for every hour seemed to her a thousand years until she got
home again. Then giving a cake to her daughter, she sent her for water
to the fountain, where Puccia found the same old woman. And when the
old woman asked her for a little piece of cake she answered gruffly,
"Have I nothing to do, forsooth, but to give you cake? Do you take me
to be so foolish as to give you what belongs to me? Look ye, charity
begins at home." And so saying she swallowed the cake in four pieces,
making the old woman's mouth water, who when she saw the last morsel
disappear and her hopes buried with the cake, exclaimed in a rage,
"Begone! and whenever you breathe may you foam at the mouth like a
doctor's mule, may toads drop from your lips, and every time you set
foot to the ground may there spring up ferns and thistles!"

Puccia took the pitcher of water and returned home, where her mother
was all impatience to hear what had befallen her at the fountain. But
no sooner did Puccia open her lips, than a shower of toads fell from
them, at the sight of which her mother added the fire of rage to the
snow of envy, sending forth flame and smoke through nose and mouth.

Now it happened some time afterwards that Ciommo, the brother of
Marziella, was at the court of the King of Chiunzo; and the
conversation turning on the beauty of various women, he stepped
forward, unasked, and said that all the handsome women might hide their
heads when his sister made her appearance, who beside the beauty of her
form, which made harmony on the song of a noble soul, possessed also a
wonderful virtue in her hair, mouth, and feet, which was given to her
by a fairy. When the King heard these praises he told Ciommo to bring
his sister to the court; adding that, if he found her such as he had
represented, he would take her to wife.

Now Ciommo thought this a chance not to be lost; so he forthwith sent a
messenger post-haste to his mother, telling her what had happened, and
begging her to come instantly with her daughter, in order not to let
slip the good luck. But Luceta, who was very unwell, commending the
lamb to the wolf, begged her sister to have the kindness to accompany
Marziella to the court of Chiunzo for such and such a thing. Whereupon
Troccola, who saw that matters were playing into her hand, promised her
sister to take Marziella safe and sound to her brother, and then
embarked with her niece and Puccia in a boat. But when they were some
way out at sea, whilst the sailors were asleep, she threw Marziella
into the water; and just as the poor girl was on the point of being
drowned there came a most beautiful syren, who took her in her arms and
carried her off.

When Troccola arrived at Chiunzo, Ciommo, who had not seen his sister
for so long a time, mistook Puccia, and received her as if she were
Marziella, and led her instantly to the King. But no sooner did she
open her lips than toads dropped on the ground; and when the King
looked at her more closely he saw, that as she breathed hard from the
fatigue of the journey, she made a lather at her mouth, which looked
just like a washtub; then looking down on the ground, he saw a meadow
of stinking plants, the sight of which made him quite ill. Upon this he
drove Puccia and her mother away, and sent Ciommo in disgrace to keep
the geese of the court.

Then Ciommo, in despair and not knowing what had happened to him, drove
the geese into the fields, and letting them go their way along the
seashore, he used to retire into a little straw shed, where he bewailed
his lot until evening, when it was time to return home. But whilst the
geese were running about on the shore, Marziella would come out of the
water, and feed them with sweetmeats, and give them rose-water to
drink; so that the geese grew as big as sheep, and were so fat that
they could not see out of their eyes. And in the evening when they came
into a little garden under the King's window, they began to sing--

     "Pire, pire pire!
     The sun and the moon are bright and clear,
     But she who feeds us is still more fair."

Now the King, hearing this goose-music every evening, ordered Ciommo to
be called, and asked him where, and how, and upon what he fed his
geese. And Ciommo replied, "I give them nothing to eat but the fresh
grass of the field." But the King, who was not satisfied with this
answer, sent a trusty servant after Ciommo to watch and observe where
he drove the geese. Then the man followed in his footsteps, and saw him
go into the little straw shed, leaving the geese to themselves; and
going their way they had no sooner come to the shore than Marziella
rose up out of the sea; and I do not believe that even the mother of
that blind boy who, as the poet says, "desires no other alms than
tears," ever rose from the waves so fair. When the servant of the King
saw this, he ran back to his master, beside himself with amazement, and
told him the pretty spectacle he had seen upon the seashore.

The curiosity of the King was increased by what the man told him, and
he had a great desire to go himself and see the beautiful sight. So the
next morning, when the Cock, the ringleader of the birds, excited them
all to arm mankind against the Night, and Ciommo went with the geese to
the accustomed spot, the King followed him closely; and when the geese
came to the seashore, without Ciommo, who remained as usual in the
little shed, the King saw Marziella rise out of the water. And after
giving the geese a trayful of sweetmeats to eat and a cupful of
rose-water to drink, she seated herself on a rock and began to comb her
locks, from which fell handfuls of pearls and garnets; at the same time
a cloud of flowers dropped from her mouth, and under her feet was a
Syrian carpet of lilies and violets.

When the King saw this sight, he ordered Ciommo to be called, and,
pointing to Marziella, asked him whether he knew that beautiful maiden.
Then Ciommo, recognising his sister, ran to embrace her, and in the
presence of the King heard from her all the treacherous conduct of
Troccola, and how the envy of that wicked creature had brought that
fair fire of love to dwell in the waters of the sea.

The joy of the King is not to be told at the acquisition of so fair a
jewel; and turning to the brother he said that he had good reason to
praise Marziella so much, and indeed that he found her three times more
beautiful than he had described her; he deemed her, therefore, more
than worthy to be his wife if she would be content to receive the
sceptre of his kingdom.

"Alas, would to Heaven it could be so!" answered Marziella, "and that I
could serve you as the slave of your crown! But see you not this golden
chain upon my foot, by which the sorceress holds me prisoner? When I
take too much fresh air, and tarry too long on the shore, she draws me
into the waves, and thus keeps me held in rich slavery by a golden
chain."

"What way is there," said the King, "to free you from the claws of this
syren?"

"The way," replied Marziella, "would be to cut this chain with a smooth
file, and to loose me from it."

"Wait till to-morrow morning," answered the King; "I will then come
with all that is needful, and take you home with me, where you shall be
the pupil of my eye, the core of my heart, and the life of my soul."
And then exchanging a shake of the hands as the earnest-money of their
love, she went back into the water and he into the fire--and into such
a fire indeed that he had not an hour's rest the whole day long. And
when the black old hag of the Night came forth to have a country-dance
with the Stars, he never closed an eye, but lay ruminating in his
memory over the beauties of Marziella, discoursing in thought of the
marvels of her hair, the miracles of her mouth, and the wonders of her
feet; and applying the gold of her graces to the touchstone of
judgment, he found that it was four-and-twenty carats fine. But he
upbraided the Night for not leaving off her embroidery of the Stars,
and chided the Sun for not arriving with the chariot of light to enrich
his house with the treasure he longed for--a mine of gold which
produced pearls, a pearl-shell from which sprang flowers.

But whilst he was thus at sea, thinking of her who was all the while in
the sea, behold the pioneers of the Sun appeared, who smooth the road
along which he has to pass with the army of his rays. Then the King
dressed himself, and went with Ciommo to the seashore, where he found
Marziella; and the King with his own hand cut the chain from the foot
of the beloved object with the file which they had brought, but all the
while he forged a still stronger one for his heart; and setting her on
the saddle behind him, she who was already fixed on the saddle of his
heart, he set out for the royal palace, where by his command all the
handsome ladies of the land were assembled, who received Marziella as
their mistress with all due honour. Then the King married her, and
there were great festivities; and among all the casks which were burnt
for the illuminations, the King ordered that Troccola should be shut up
in a tub, and made to suffer for the treachery she had shown to
Marziella. Then sending for Luceta, he gave her and Ciommo enough to
live upon like princes; whilst Puccia, driven out of the kingdom,
wandered about as a beggar; and, as the reward of her not having sown a
little bit of cake, she had now to suffer a constant want of bread; for
it is the will of Heaven that--

     "He who shows no pity finds none."



XXIV

THE SEVEN DOVES

He who gives pleasure meets with it: kindness is the bond of friendship
and the hook of love: he who sows not reaps not; of which truth Ciulla
has given you the foretaste of example, and I will give you the
dessert, if you will bear in mind what Cato says, "Speak little at
table." Therefore have the kindness to lend me your ears awhile; and
may Heaven cause them to stretch continually, to listen to pleasant and
amusing things.

There was once in the county of Arzano a good woman who every year gave
birth to a son, until at length there were seven of them, who looked
like the pipes of the god Pan, with seven reeds, one larger than
another. And when they had changed their first teeth, they said to
Jannetella their mother, "Hark ye, mother, if, after so many sons, you
do not this time have a daughter, we are resolved to leave home, and go
wandering through the world like the sons of the blackbirds."

When their mother heard this sad announcement, she prayed Heaven to
remove such an intention from her sons, and prevent her losing seven
such jewels as they were. And when the hour of the birth was at hand,
the sons said to Jannetella, "We will retire to the top of yonder hill
or rock opposite; if you give birth to a son, put an inkstand and a pen
up at the window; but if you have a little girl, put up a spoon and a
distaff. For if we see the signal of a daughter, we shall return home
and spend the rest of our lives under your wings; but if we see the
signal of a son, then forget us, for you may know that we have taken
ourselves off."

Soon after the sons had departed it pleased Heaven that Jannetella
should bring forth a pretty little daughter; then she told the nurse to
make the signal to the brothers, but the woman was so stupid and
confused that she put up the inkstand and the pen. As soon as the seven
brothers saw this signal, they set off, and walked on and on, until at
the end of three years they came to a wood, where the trees were
performing the sword-dance to the sound of a river which made music
upon the stones. In this wood was the house of an ogre whose eyes
having been blinded whilst asleep by a woman, he was such an enemy to
the sex that he devoured all whom he could catch.

When the youths arrived at the ogre's house, tired out with walking and
exhausted with hunger, they begged him for pity's sake to give them a
morsel of bread. And the ogre replied that if they would serve him he
would give them food, and they would have nothing else to do but to
watch over him like a dog, each in turn for a day. The youths, upon
hearing this, thought they had found father and mother; so they
consented, and remained in the service of the ogre, who, having gotten
their names by heart, called once for Giangrazio, at another time for
Cecchitiello, now for Pascale, now Nuccio, now Pone, now Pezzillo, and
now Carcavecchia, for so the brothers were named; and giving them a
room in the lower part of the house, he allowed them enough to live
upon.

Meanwhile their sister had grown up; and hearing that her seven
brothers, owing to the stupidity of the nurse, had set out to walk
through the world, and that no tidings of them had ever been received,
she took it into her head to go in search of them. And she begged and
prayed her mother so long, that at last, overcome by her entreaties,
she gave her leave to go, and dressed her like a pilgrim. Then the
maiden walked and walked, asking at every place she came to whether any
one had seen seven brothers. And thus she journeyed on, until at length
she got news of them at an inn, where having enquired the way to the
wood, one morning, at the hour when the Sun with the penknife of his
rays scratches out the inkspots made by Night upon the sheet of Heaven,
she arrived at the ogre's house, where she was recognised by her
brothers with great joy, who cursed the inkstand and the pen for
writing falsely such misfortune for them. Then giving her a thousand
caresses, they told her to remain quiet in their chamber, that the ogre
might not see her; bidding her at the same time give a portion of
whatever she had to eat to a cat which was in the room, or otherwise
she would do her some harm. Cianna (for so the sister was named) wrote
down this advice in the pocket-book of her heart, and shared everything
with the cat, like a good companion, always cutting justly, and saying,
"This for me--this for thee,--this for the daughter of the king,"
giving the cat a share to the last morsel.

Now it happened one day that the brothers, going to hunt for the ogre,
left Cianna a little basket of chick-peas to cook; and as she was
picking them, by ill-luck she found among them a hazel-nut, which was
the stone of disturbance to her quiet; for having swallowed it without
giving half to the cat, the latter out of spite jumped on the table and
blew out the candle. Cianna seeing this, and not knowing what to do,
left the room, contrary to the command of her brothers, and going into
the ogre's chamber begged him for a little light. Then the ogre,
hearing a woman's voice, said, "Welcome, madam! wait awhile,--you have
found what you are seeking." And so saying he took a Genoa stone, and
daubing it with oil he fell to whetting his tusks. But Cianna, who saw
the cart on a wrong track, seizing a lighted stick ran to her chamber;
and bolting the door inside, she placed against it bars, stools,
bedsteads, tables, stones, and everything there was in the room.

As soon as the ogre had put an edge on his teeth he ran to the chamber
of the brothers, and finding the door fastened, he fell to kicking it
to break it open. At this noise and disturbance the seven brothers at
once came home, and hearing themselves accused by the ogre of treachery
for making their chamber a refuge for one of his women enemies,
Giangrazio, who was the eldest and had more sense than the others, and
saw matters going badly, said to the ogre, "We know nothing of this
affair, and it may be that this wicked woman has perchance come into
the room whilst we were at the chase; but as she has fortified herself
inside, come with me and I will take you to a place where we can seize
her without her being able to defend herself."

Then they took the ogre by the hand, and led him to a deep, deep pit,
where, giving him a push, they sent him headlong to the bottom; and
taking a shovel, which they found on the ground, they covered him with
earth. Then they bade their sister unfasten the door, and they rated
her soundly for the fault she had committed, and the danger in which
she had placed herself; telling her to be more careful in future, and
to beware of plucking grass upon the spot where the ogre was buried, or
they would be turned into seven doves.

"Heaven keep me from bringing such a misfortune upon you!" replied
Cianna. So taking possession of all the ogre's goods and chattels, and
making themselves masters of the whole house, they lived there merrily
enough, waiting until winter should pass away, and the Sun, on taking
possession of the house of the Bull, give a present to the Earth of a
green gown embroidered with flowers, when they might set out on their
journey home.

Now it happened one day, when the brothers were gone to the mountains
to get firewood to defend themselves against the cold, which increased
from day to day, that a poor pilgrim came to the ogre's wood, and made
faces at an ape that was perched up in a pine-tree; whereupon the ape
threw down one of the fir-apples from the tree upon the man's pate,
which made such a terrible bump that the poor fellow set up a loud cry.
Cianna hearing the noise went out, and taking pity on his disaster, she
quickly plucked a sprig of rosemary from a tuft which grew upon the
ogre's grave; then she made him a plaster of it with boiled bread and
salt, and after giving the man some breakfast she sent him away.

Whilst Cianna was laying the cloth, and expecting her brothers, lo! she
saw seven doves come flying, who said to her, "Ah! better that your
hand had been cut off, you cause of all our misfortune, ere it plucked
that accursed rosemary and brought such a calamity upon us! Have you
eaten the brains of a cat, O sister, that you have driven our advice
from your mind? Behold us, turned to birds, a prey to the talons of
kites, hawks, and falcons! Behold us made companions of water-hens,
snipes, goldfinches, woodpeckers, jays, owls, magpies, jackdaws, rooks,
starlings, woodcocks, cocks, hens and chickens, turkey-cocks,
blackbirds, thrushes, chaffinches, tomtits, jenny-wrens, lapwings,
linnets, greenfinches, crossbills, flycatchers, larks, plovers,
kingfishers, wagtails, redbreasts, redfinches, sparrows, ducks,
fieldfares, woodpigeons and bullfinches! A rare thing you have done!
And now we may return to our country to find nets laid and twigs limed
for us! To heal the head of a pilgrim, you have broken the heads of
seven brothers; nor is there any help for our misfortune, unless you
find the Mother of Time, who will tell you the way to get us out of
trouble."

Cianna, looking like a plucked quail at the fault she had committed,
begged pardon of her brothers, and offered to go round the world until
she should find the dwelling of the old woman. Then praying them not to
stir from the house until she returned, lest any ill should betide
them, she set out, and journeyed on and on without ever tiring; and
though she went on foot, her desire to aid her brothers served her as a
sumpter-mule, with which she made three miles an hour. At last she came
to the seashore, where with the blows of the waves the sea was banging
the rocks which would not repeat the Latin it gave them to do. Here she
saw a huge whale, who said to her, "My pretty maiden, what go you
seeking?" And she replied, "I am seeking the dwelling of the Mother of
Time." "Hear then what you must do," replied the whale; "go straight
along this shore, and on coming to the first river, follow it up to its
source, and you will meet with some one who will show you the way: but
do me one kindness,--when you find the good old woman, beg of her the
favour to tell me some means by which I may swim about safely, without
so often knocking upon the rocks and being thrown on the sands."

"Trust to me," said Cianna, then thanking the whale for pointing out
the way, she set off walking along the shore; and after a long journey
she came to the river, which like a clerk of the treasury was
disbursing silver money into the bank of the sea. Then taking the way
up to its source, she arrived at a beautiful open country, where the
meadow vied with the heaven, displaying her green mantle starred over
with flowers; and there she met a mouse who said to her, "Whither are
you going thus alone, my pretty girl?" And Cianna replied, "I am
seeking the Mother of Time."

"You have a long way to go," said the mouse; "but do not lose heart,
everything has an end. Walk on, therefore, toward yon mountains, which,
like the free lords of these fields, assume the title of Highness, and
you will soon have more news of what you are seeking. But do me one
favour,--when you arrive at the house you wish to find, get the good
old woman to tell you what you can do to rid us of the tyranny of the
cats; then command me, and I am your slave."

Cianna, after promising to do the mouse this kindness, set off towards
the mountains, which, although they appeared to be close at hand,
seemed never to be reached. But having come to them at length, she sat
down tired out upon a stone; and there she saw an army of ants,
carrying a large store of grain, one of whom turning to Cianna said,
"Who art thou, and whither art thou going?" And Cianna, who was
courteous to every one, said to her, "I am an unhappy girl, who, for a
matter that concerns me, am seeking the dwelling of the Mother of Time."

"Go on farther," said the ant, "and where these mountains open into a
large plain you will obtain more news. But do me a great favour,--get
the secret from the old woman, what we ants can do to live a little
longer; for it seems to me a folly in worldly affairs to be heaping up
such a large store of food for so short a life, which, like an
auctioneer's candle, goes out just at the best bidding of years."

"Be at ease," said Cianna, "I will return the kindness you have shown
me."

Then she passed the mountains and arrived at a wide plain; and
proceeding a little way over it, she came to a large oak-tree,--a
memorial of antiquity, whose fruit (a mouthful which Time gives to this
bitter age of its lost sweetness) tasted like sweetmeats to the maiden,
who was satisfied with little. Then the oak, making lips of its bark
and a tongue of its pith, said to Cianna, "Whither are you going so
sad, my little daughter? Come and rest under my shade." Cianna thanked
him much, but excused herself, saying that she was going in haste to
find the Mother of Time. And when the oak heard this he replied, "You
are not far from her dwelling; for before you have gone another day's
journey, you will see upon a mountain a house, in which you will find
her whom you seek. But if you have as much kindness as beauty, I
prithee learn for me what I can do to regain my lost honour; for
instead of being food for great men, I am now only made the food of
hogs."

"Leave that to me," replied Cianna, "I will take care to serve you." So
saying, she departed, and walking on and on without ever resting, she
came at length to the foot of an impertinent mountain, which was poking
its head into the face of the clouds. There she found an old man, who,
wearied and wayworn, had lain down upon some hay; and as soon as he saw
Cianna, he knew her at once, and that it was she who had cured his bump.

When the old man heard what she was seeking, he told her that he was
carrying to Time the rent for the piece of earth which he had
cultivated, and that Time was a tyrant who usurped everything in the
world, claiming tribute from all, and especially from people of his
age; and he added that, having received kindness from Cianna, he would
now return it a hundredfold by giving her some good information about
her arrival at the mountain; and that he was sorry he could not
accompany her thither, since his old age, which was condemned rather to
go down than up, obliged him to remain at the foot of those mountains,
to cast up accounts with the clerks of Time--which are the labours, the
sufferings, and the infirmities of life--and to pay the debt of Nature.
So the old man said to her, "Now, my pretty, innocent child, listen to
me. You must know that on the top of this mountain you will find a
ruined house, which was built long ago, time out of mind. The walls are
cracked, the foundations crumbling away, the doors worm-eaten, the
furniture all worn out--and, in short, everything is gone to wrack and
ruin. On one side are seen shattered columns, on another broken
statues; and nothing is left in a good state except a coat-of-arms over
the door, quartered on which you will see a serpent biting its tail, a
stag, a raven, and a phoenix. When you enter, you will see on the
ground, files, saws, scythes, sickles, pruning-hooks, and hundreds and
hundreds of vessels full of ashes, with the names written on them, like
gallipots in an apothecary's shop; and there may be read Corinth,
Saguntum, Carthage, Troy, and a thousand other cities, the ashes of
which Time preserved as trophies of his conquests.

"When you come near the house, hide yourself until Time goes out; and
as soon as he has gone forth, enter, and you will find an old, old
woman, with a beard that touches the ground and a hump reaching to the
sky. Her hair, like the tail of a dapple-grey horse, covers her heels;
her face looks like a plaited collar, with the folds stiffened by the
starch of years. The old woman is seated upon a clock, which is
fastened to a wall; and her eyebrows are so large that they overshadow
her eyes, so that she will not be able to see you. As soon as you
enter, quickly take the weights off the clock, then call to the old
woman, and beg her to answer your questions; whereupon she will
instantly call her son to come and eat you up. But the clock upon which
the old woman sits having lost its weights, her son cannot move, and
she will therefore be obliged to tell you what you wish. But do not
trust any oath she may make, unless she swears by the wings of her son,
and you will be content."

So saying, the poor old man fell down and crumbled away, like a dead
body brought from a catacomb to the light of day. Then Cianna took the
ashes, and mixing them with a pint of tears, she made a grave and
buried them, praying Heaven to grant them quiet and repose. And
ascending the mountain till she was quite out of breath, she waited
until Time came out, who was an old man with a long, long beard, and
who wore a very old cloak covered with slips of paper, on which were
worked the names of various people. He had large wings, and ran so fast
that he was out of sight in an instant.

When Cianna entered the house of his mother, she started with affright
at the sight of that black old chip; and instantly seizing the weights
of the clock, she told what she wanted to the old woman, who, setting
up a loud cry, called to her son. But Cianna said to her, "You may butt
your head against the wall as long as you like, for you will not see
your son whilst I hold these clock-weights."

Thereupon the old woman, seeing herself foiled, began to coax Cianna,
saying, "Let go of them, my dear, and do not stop my son's course; for
no man living has ever done that. Let go of them, and may Heaven
preserve you! for I promise you, by the acid of my son, with which he
corrodes everything, that I will do you no harm."

"That's time lost," answered Cianna, "you must say something better if
you would have me quit my hold."

"I swear to you by those teeth, which gnaw all mortal things, that I
will tell you all you desire."

"That is all nothing," answered Cianna, "for I know you are deceiving
me."

"Well, then," said the old woman, "I swear to you by those wings which
fly over all that I will give you more pleasure than you imagine."

Thereupon Cianna, letting go the weights, kissed the old woman's hand,
which had a mouldy feel and a nasty smell. And the old woman, seeing
the courtesy of the damsel, said to her, "Hide yourself behind this
door, and when Time comes home I will make him tell me all you wish to
know. And as soon as he goes out again--for he never stays quiet in one
place--you can depart. But do not let yourself be heard or seen, for he
is such a glutton that he does not spare even his own children; and
when all fails, he devours himself and then springs up anew."

Cianna did as the old woman told her; and, lo! soon after Time came
flying quick, quick, high and light, and having gnawed whatever came to
hand, down to the very mouldiness upon the walls, he was about to
depart, when his mother told him all she had heard from Cianna,
beseeching him by the milk she had given him to answer exactly all her
questions. After a thousand entreaties, her son replied, "To the tree
may be answered, that it can never be prized by men so long as it keeps
treasures buried under its roots; to the mice, that they will never be
safe from the cat unless they tie a bell to her leg to tell them when
she is coming; to the ants, that they will live a hundred years if they
can dispense with flying--for when the ant is going to die she puts on
wings; to the whale, that it should be of good cheer, and make friends
with the sea-mouse, who will serve him as a guide, so that he will
never go wrong; and to the doves, that when they alight on the column
of wealth, they will return to their former state."

So saying, Time set out to run his accustomed post; and Cianna, taking
leave of the old woman, descended to the foot of the mountain, just at
the very time that the seven doves, who had followed their sister's
footsteps, arrived there. Wearied with flying so far, they stopped to
rest upon the horn of a dead ox; and no sooner had they alighted than
they were changed into handsome youths as they were at first. But while
they were marvelling at this, they heard the reply which Time had
given, and saw at once that the horn, as the symbol of plenty, was the
column of wealth of which Time had spoken. Then embracing their sister
with great joy, they all set out on the same road by which Cianna had
come. And when they came to the oak-tree, and told it what Cianna had
heard from Time, the tree begged them to take away the treasure from
its roots, since it was the cause why its acorns had lost their
reputation. Thereupon the seven brothers, taking a spade which they
found in a garden, dug and dug, until they came to a great heap of gold
money, which they divided into eight parts and shared among themselves
and their sister, so that they might carry it away conveniently. But
being wearied with the journey and the load, they laid themselves down
to sleep under a hedge. Presently a band of robbers coming by, and
seeing the poor fellows asleep, with their heads upon the clothfuls of
money, bound them hand and foot to some trees and took away their
money, leaving them to bewail not only their wealth--which had slipped
through their fingers as soon as found--but their life; for being
without hope of succour, they were in peril of either soon dying of
hunger or allaying the hunger of some wild beast.

As they were lamenting their unhappy lot, up came the mouse, who, as
soon as she heard the reply which Time had given, in return for the
good service, nibbled the cords with which they were bound and set them
free. And having gone a little way farther, they met on the road the
ant, who, when she heard the advice of Time, asked Cianna what was the
matter that she was so pale-faced and cast down. And when Cianna told
her their misfortune, and the trick which the robbers had played them,
the ant replied, "Be quiet, I can now requite the kindness you have
done me. You must know, that whilst I was carrying a load of grain
underground, I saw a place where these dogs of assassins hide their
plunder. They have made some holes under an old building, in which they
shut up all the things they have stolen. They are just now gone out for
some new robbery, and I will go with you and show you the place, so
that you may recover your money."

So saying, she took the way towards some tumbled-down houses, and
showed the seven brothers the mouth of the pit; whereupon Giangrazio,
who was bolder than the rest, entering it, found there all the money of
which they had been robbed. Then taking it with them, they set out, and
walked towards the seashore, where they found the whale, and told him
the good advice which Time--who is the father of counsel--had given
them. And whilst they stood talking of their journey and all that had
befallen them, they saw the robbers suddenly appear, armed to the
teeth, who had followed in their footsteps. At this sight they
exclaimed, "Alas, alas! we are now wholly lost, for here come the
robbers armed, and they will not leave the skin on our bodies."

"Fear not," replied the whale, "for I can save you out of the fire, and
will thus requite the love you have shown me; so get upon my back, and
I will quickly carry you to a place of safety."

Cianna and her brothers, seeing the foe at their heels and the water up
to their throats, climbed upon the whale, who, keeping far off from the
rocks, carried them to within sight of Naples. But being afraid to land
them on account of the shoals and shallows, he said, "Where would you
like me to land you? On the shore of Amalfi?" And Giangrazio answered,
"See whether that cannot be avoided, my dear fish. I do not wish to
land at any place hereabouts; for at Massa they say barely good-day, at
Sorrento thieves are plenty, at Vico they say you may go your way, at
Castel-a-mare no one says how are ye."

Then the whale, to please them, turned about and went toward the
Salt-rock, where he left them; and they got put on shore by the first
fishing-boat that passed. Thereupon they returned to their own country,
safe and sound and rich, to the great joy and consolation of their
mother and father. And, thanks to the goodness of Cianna, they enjoyed
a happy life, verifying the old saying--

    "Do good whenever you can, and forget it."



XXV

THE RAVEN

It is truly a great proverb--"Rather a crooked sight than a crooked
judgment"; but it is so difficult to adopt it that the judgment of few
men hits the nail on the head. On the contrary, in the sea of human
affairs, the greater part are fishers in smooth waters, who catch
crabs; and he who thinks to take the most exact measure of the object
at which he aims often shoots widest of the mark. The consequence of
this is that all are running pell-mell, all toiling in the dark, all
thinking crookedly, all acting child's-play, all judging at random, and
with a haphazard blow of a foolish resolution bringing upon themselves
a bitter repentance; as was the case with the King of Shady-Grove; and
you shall hear how it fared with him if you summon me within the circle
of modesty with the bell of courtesy, and give me a little attention.

It is said that there was once a king of Shady-Grove named Milluccio,
who was so devoted to the chase, that he neglected the needful affairs
of his state and household to follow the track of a hare or the flight
of a thrush. And he pursued this road so far that chance one day led
him to a thicket, which had formed a solid square of earth and trees to
prevent the horses of the Sun from breaking through. There, upon a most
beautiful marble stone, he found a raven, which had just been killed.

The King, seeing the bright red blood sprinkled upon the white, white
marble, heaved a deep sigh and exclaimed, "O heavens! and cannot I have
a wife as white and red as this stone, and with hair and eyebrows as
black as the feathers of this raven?" And he stood for a while so
buried in this thought that he became a counterpart to the stone, and
looked like a marble image making love to the other marble. And this
unhappy fancy fixing itself in his head, as he searched for it
everywhere with the lanthorn of desire, it grew in four seconds from a
picktooth to a pole, from a crab-apple to an Indian pumpkin, from
barber's embers to a glass furnace, and from a dwarf to a giant;
insomuch that he thought of nothing else than the image of that object
encrusted in his heart as stone to stone. Wherever he turned his eyes
that form was always presented to him which he carried in his breast;
and forgetting all besides, he had nothing but that marble in his head;
in short, he became in a manner so worn away upon the stone that he was
at last as thin as the edge of a penknife; and this marble was a
millstone which crushed his life, a slab of porphyry upon which the
colours of his days were ground and mixed, a tinder-box which set fire
to the brimstone match of his soul, a loadstone which attracted him,
and lastly, a rolling-stone which could never rest.

At length his brother Jennariello, seeing him so pale and half-dead,
said to him, "My brother, what has happened to you, that you carry
grief lodged in your eyes, and despair sitting under the pale banner of
your face? What has befallen you? Speak--open your heart to your
brother: the smell of charcoal shut up in a chamber poisons
people--powder pent up in a mountain blows it into the air; open your
lips, therefore, and tell me what is the matter with you; at all events
be assured that I would lay down a thousand lives if I could to help
you."

Then Milluccio, mingling words and sighs, thanked him for his love,
saying that he had no doubt of his affection, but that there was no
remedy for his ill, since it sprang from a stone, where he had sown
desires without hope of fruit--a stone from which he did not expect a
mushroom of content--a stone of Sisyphus, which he bore to the mountain
of designs, and when it reached the top rolled over and over to the
bottom. At length, however, after a thousand entreaties, Milluccio told
his brother all about his love; whereupon Jennariello comforted him as
much as he could, and bade him be of good cheer, and not give way to an
unhappy passion; for that he was resolved, in order to satisfy him, to
go all the world over until he found a woman the counterpart of the
stone.

Then instantly fitting out a large ship, filled with merchandise, and
dressing himself like a merchant, he sailed for Venice, the wonder of
Italy, the receptacle of virtuous men, the great book of the marvels of
art and nature; and having procured there a safe-conduct to pass to the
Levant, he set sail for Cairo. When he arrived there and entered the
city, he saw a man who was carrying a most beautiful falcon, and
Jennariello at once purchased it to take to his brother, who was a
sportsman. Soon afterwards he met another man with a splendid horse,
which he also bought; whereupon he went to an inn to refresh himself
after the fatigues he had suffered at sea.

The following morning, when the army of the Star, at the command of the
general of the Light, strikes the tents in the camp of the sky and
abandons the post, Jennariello set out to wander through the city,
having his eyes about him like a lynx, looking at this woman and that,
to see whether by chance he could find the likeness to a stone upon a
face of flesh. And as he was wandering about at random, turning
continually to this side and that, like a thief in fear of the
constables, he met a beggar carrying an hospital of plasters and a
mountain of rags upon his back, who said to him, "My gallant sir, what
makes you so frightened?"

"Have I, forsooth, to tell you my affairs?" answered Jennariello.
"Faith I should do well to tell my reason to the constable."

"Softly, my fair youth!" replied the beggar, "for the flesh of man is
not sold by weight. If Darius had not told his troubles to a groom he
would not have become king of Persia. It will be no great matter,
therefore, for you to tell your affairs to a poor beggar, for there is
not a twig so slender but it may serve for a toothpick."

When Jennariello heard the poor man talking sensibly and with reason,
he told him the cause that had brought him to that country; whereupon
the beggar replied, "See now, my son, how necessary it is to make
account of every one; for though I am only a heap of rubbish, yet I
shall be able to enrich the garden of your hopes. Now listen--under the
pretext of begging alms, I will knock at the door of the young and
beautiful daughter of a magician; then open your eyes wide, look at
her, contemplate her, regard her, measure her from head to foot, for
you will find the image of her whom your brother desires." So saying,
he knocked at the door of a house close by, and Liviella opening it
threw him a piece of bread.

As soon as Jennariello saw her, she seemed to him built after the model
which Milluccio had given him; then he gave a good alms to the beggar
and sent him away, and going to the inn he dressed himself like a
pedlar, carrying in two caskets all the wealth of the world. And thus
he walked up and down before Liviella's house crying his wares, until
at length she called him, and took a view of the beautiful net-caps,
hoods, ribands, gauze, edgings, lace, handkerchiefs, collars, needles,
cups of rouge, and head-gear fit for a queen, which he carried. And
when she had examined all the things again and again, she told him to
show her something else; and Jennariello answered, "My lady, in these
caskets I have only cheap and paltry wares; but if you will deign to
come to my ship, I will show you things of the other world, for I have
there a host of beautiful goods worthy of any great lord."

Liviella, who was full of curiosity, not to belie the nature of her
sex, replied, "If my father indeed were not out he would have given me
some money."

"Nay, you can come all the better if he is out," replied Jennariello,
"for perhaps he might not allow you the pleasure; and I'll promise to
show you such splendid things as will make you rave--such necklaces and
earrings, such bracelets and sashes, such workmanship in paper--in
short I will perfectly astound you."

When Liviella heard all this display of finery she called a gossip of
hers to accompany her, and went to the ship. But no sooner had she
embarked than Jennariello, whilst keeping her enchanted with the sight
of all the beautiful things he had brought, craftily ordered the anchor
to be weighed and the sails to be set, so that before Liviella raised
her eyes from the wares and saw that she had left the land, they had
already gone many miles. When at length she perceived the trick, she
began to act Olympia the reverse way; for whereas Olympia bewailed
being left upon a rock, Liviella lamented leaving the rocks. But when
Jennariello told her who he was, whither he was carrying her, and the
good fortune that awaited her, and pictured to her, moreover,
Milluccio's beauty, his valour, his virtues, and lastly the love with
which he would receive her, he succeeded in pacifying her, and she even
prayed the wind to bear her quickly to see the colouring of the design
which Jennariello had drawn.

As they were sailing merrily along they heard the waves grumbling
beneath the ship; and although they spoke in an undertone, the captain
of the ship, who understood in an instant what it meant, cried out,
"All hands aboard! for here comes a storm, and Heaven save us!" No
sooner had he spoken these words than there came the testimony of a
whistling of the wind; and behold the sky was overcast with clouds, and
the sea was covered with white-crested waves. And whilst the waves on
either side of the ship, curious to know what the others were about,
leaped uninvited to the nuptials upon the deck, one man baled them with
a bowl into a tub, another drove them off with a pump; and whilst every
sailor was hard at work--as it concerned his own safety--one minding
the rudder, another hauling the foresail, another the mainsheet,
Jennariello ran up to the topmast, to see with a telescope if he could
discover any land where they might cast anchor. And lo! whilst he was
measuring a hundred miles of distance with two feet of telescope, he
saw a dove and its mate come flying up and alight upon the sail-yard.
Then the male bird said, "Rucche, rucche!" And his mate answered,
"What's the matter, husband, that you are lamenting so?" "This poor
Prince," replied the other, "has bought a falcon, which as soon as it
shall be in his brother's hands will pick out his eyes; but if he does
not take it to him, or if he warns him of the danger, he will turn to
marble." And thereupon he began again to cry, "Rucche, rucche!" And his
mate said to him, "What, still lamenting! Is there anything new?" "Ay,
indeed," answered the male dove, "he has also bought a horse, and the
first time his brother rides him the horse will break his neck; but if
he does not take it to him, or if he warns him of the danger, he will
turn to marble." "Rucche, rucche!" he cried again. "Alas, with all
these RUCCHE, RUCCHE," said the female dove, "what's the matter now?"
And her mate said, "This man is taking a beautiful wife to his brother;
but the first night, as soon as they go to sleep, they will both be
devoured by a frightful dragon; yet if he does not take her to him, or
if he warns him of the danger, he will turn to marble."

As he spoke, the tempest ceased, and the rage of the sea and the fury
of the wind subsided. But a far greater tempest arose in Jennariello's
breast, from what he had heard, and more than twenty times he was on
the point of throwing all the things into the sea, in order not to
carry to his brother the cause of his ruin. But on the other hand he
thought of himself, and reflected that charity begins at home; and
fearing that, if he did not carry these things to his brother, or if he
warned him of the danger, he should turn to marble, he resolved to look
rather to the fact than to the possibility, since the shirt was closer
to him than the jacket.

When he arrived at Shady-Grove, he found his brother on the shore,
awaiting with great joy the return of the ship, which he had seen at a
distance. And when he saw that it bore her whom he carried in his
heart, and confronting one face with the other perceived that there was
not the difference of a hair, his joy was so great that he was almost
weighed down under the excessive burden of delight. Then embracing his
brother fervently, he said to him, "What falcon is that you are
carrying on your fist?" And Jennariello answered, "I have bought it on
purpose to give to you." "I see clearly that you love me," replied
Milluccio, "since you go about seeking to give me pleasure. Truly, if
you had brought me a costly treasure, it could not have given me
greater delight than this falcon." And just as he was going to take it
in his hand, Jennariello quickly drew a large knife which he carried at
his side and cut off its head. At this deed the King stood aghast, and
thought his brother mad to have done such a stupid act; but not to
interrupt the joy at his arrival, he remained silent. Presently,
however, he saw the horse, and on asking his brother whose it was,
heard that it was his own. Then he felt a great desire to ride him, and
just as he was ordering the stirrup to beheld, Jennariello quickly cut
off the horse's legs with his knife. Thereat the King waxed wrath, for
his brother seemed to have done it on purpose to vex him, and his
choler began to rise. However, he did not think it a right time to show
resentment, lest he should poison the pleasure of the bride at first
sight, whom he could never gaze upon enough.

When they arrived at the royal palace, he invited all the lords and
ladies of the city to a grand feast, at which the hall seemed just like
a riding-school full of horses, curveting and prancing, with a number
of foals in the form of women. But when the ball was ended, and a great
banquet had been despatched, they all retired to rest.

Jennariello, who thought of nothing else than to save his brother's
life, hid himself behind the bed of the bridal pair; and as he stood
watching to see the dragon come, behold at midnight a fierce dragon
entered the chamber, who sent forth flames from his eyes and smoke from
his mouth, and who, from the terror he carried in his look, would have
been a good agent to sell all the antidotes to fear in the
apothecaries' shops. As soon as Jennariello saw the monster, he began
to lay about him right and left with a Damascus blade which he had
hidden under his cloak; and he struck one blow so furiously that it cut
in halves a post of the King's bed, at which noise the King awoke, and
the dragon disappeared.

When Milluccio saw the sword in his brother's hand, and the bedpost cut
in two, he set up a loud cry, "Help here! hola! help! This traitor of a
brother is come to kill me!" Whereupon, hearing the noise, a number of
servants who slept in the antechamber came running up, and the King
ordered Jennariello to be bound, and sent him the same hour to prison.

The next morning, as soon as the Sun opened his bank to deliver the
deposit of light to the Creditor of the Day, the King summoned the
council; and when he told them what had passed, confirming the wicked
intention shown in killing the falcon and the horse on purpose to vex
him, they judged that Jennariello deserved to die. The prayers of
Liviella were all unavailing to soften the heart of the King, who said,
"You do not love me, wife, for you have more regard for your
brother-in-law than for my life. You have seen with your own eyes this
dog of an assassin come with a sword that would cut a hair in the air
to kill me; and if the bedpost (the column of my life) had not
protected me, you would at this moment have been a widow." So saying,
he gave orders that justice should take its course.

When Jennariello heard this sentence, and saw himself so ill-rewarded
for doing good, he knew not what to think or to do. If he said nothing,
bad; if he spoke, worse; and whatever he should do was a fall from the
tree into the wolf's mouth. If he remained silent, he should lose his
head under an axe; if he spoke, he should end his days in a stone. At
length, after various resolutions, he made up his mind to disclose the
matter to his brother; and since he must die at all events, he thought
it better to tell his brother the truth, and to end his days with the
title of an innocent man, than to keep the truth to himself and be sent
out of the world as a traitor. So sending word to the King that he had
something to say of importance to his state, he was led into his
presence, where he first made a long preamble of the love he had always
borne him; then he went on to tell of the deception he had practiced on
Liviella in order to give him pleasure; and then what he had heard from
the doves about the falcon, and how, to avoid being turned to marble,
he had brought it him, and without revealing the secret had killed it
in order not to see him without eyes.

As he spoke, he felt his legs stiffen and turn to marble. And when he
went on to relate the affair of the horse in the same manner, he became
visibly stone up to the waist, stiffening miserably--a thing which at
another time he would have paid in ready money, but which now his heart
wept at. At last, when he came to the affair of the dragon, he stood
like a statue in the middle of the hall, stone from head to foot. When
the King saw this, reproaching himself for the error he had committed,
and the rash sentence he had passed upon so good and loving a brother,
he mourned him more than a year, and every time he thought of him he
shed a river of tears.

Meanwhile Liviella gave birth to two sons, who were two of the most
beautiful creatures in the world. And after a few months, when the
Queen was gone into the country for pleasure, and the father and his
two little boys chanced to be standing in the middle of the hall,
gazing with tearful eyes on the statue--the memorial of his folly,
which had taken from him the flower of men--behold a stately and
venerable old man entered, whose long hair fell upon his shoulders and
whose beard covered his breast. And making a reverence to the King, the
old man said to him, "What would your Majesty give to have this noble
brother return to his former state?" And the King answered, "I would
give my kingdom." "Nay," replied the old man, "this is not a thing that
requires payment in wealth; but being an affair of life, it must be
paid for with as much again of life."

Then the King, partly out of the love he bore Jennariello, and partly
from hearing himself reproached with the injury he had done him,
answered, "Believe me, my good sir, I would give my own life for his
life; and provided that he came out of the stone, I should be content
to be enclosed in a stone."

Hearing this the old man said, "Without putting your life to the
risk--since it takes so long to rear a man--the blood of these, your
two little boys, smeared upon the marble, would suffice to make him
instantly come to life." Then the King replied, "Children I may have
again, but I have a brother, and another I can never more hop to see."
So saying, he made a pitiable sacrifice of two little innocent kids
before an idol of stone, and besmearing the statue with their blood, it
instantly became alive; whereupon the King embraced his brother, and
their joy is not to be told. Then they had these poor little creatures
put into a coffin, in order to give them burial with all due honour.
But just at that instant the Queen returned home, and the King, bidding
his brother hide himself, said to his wife, "What would you give, my
heart, to have my brother restored to life?" "I would give this whole
kingdom," replied Liviella. And the King answered, "Would you give the
blood of your children?" "Nay, not that, indeed," replied the Queen;
"for I could not be so cruel as to tear out with my own hands the apple
of my eyes." "Alas!" said the King, "in order to see a brother alive, I
have killed my own children! for this was the price of Jennariello's
life!"

So saying, he showed the Queen the little boys in the coffin; and when
she saw this sad spectacle, she cried aloud like one mad, saying, "O my
children! you props of my life, joys of my heart, fountains of my
blood! Who has painted red the windows of the sun? Who has without a
doctor's licence bled the chief vein of my life? Alas, my children, my
children! my hope now taken from me, my light now darkened, my joy now
poisoned, my support now lost! You are stabbed by the sword, I am
pierced by grief; you are drowned in blood, I in tears. Alas that, to
give life to an uncle, you have slain your mother! For I am no longer
able to weave the thread of my days without you, the fair counterpoises
of the loom of my unhappy life. The organ of my voice must be silent,
now that its bellows are taken away. O children, children! why do ye
not give answer to your mother, who once gave you the blood in your
veins, and now weeps it for you from her eyes? But since fate shows me
the fountain of my happiness dried up, I will no longer live the sport
of fortune in the world, but will go at once to find you again!"

So saying, she ran to a window to throw herself out; but just at that
instant her father entered by the same window in a cloud, and called to
her, "Stop, Liviella! I have now accomplished what I intended, and
killed three birds with one stone. I have revenged myself on
Jennariello, who came to my house to rob me of my daughter, by making
him stand all these months like a marble statue in a block of stone. I
have punished you for your ill-conduct in going away in a ship without
my permission, by showing you your two children, your two jewels,
killed by their own father. And I have punished the King for the
caprice he took into his head, by making him first the judge of his
brother, and afterwards the executioner of his children. But as I have
wished only to shear and not to flay you, I desire now that all the
poison may turn into sweetmeats for you. Therefore, go, take again your
children and my grandchildren, who are more beautiful than ever. And
you, Milluccio, embrace me. I receive you as my son-in-law and as my
son. And I pardon Jennariello his offence, having done all that he did
out of love to so excellent a brother."

And as he spoke, the little children came, and the grandfather was
never satisfied with embracing and kissing them; and in the midst of
the rejoicings Jennariello entered, as a third sharer in them, who,
after suffering so many storms of fate, was now swimming in macaroni
broth. But notwithstanding all the after pleasures that he enjoyed in
life, his past dangers never went from his mind; and he was always
thinking on the error his brother had committed, and how careful a man
ought to be not to fall into the ditch, since--

     "All human judgment is false and perverse."



XXVI

THE MONTHS

It is a saying worthy to be written in letters as big as those on a
monument, that silence never harmed any one: and let it not be imagined
that those slanderers who never speak well of others, but are always
cutting and stinging, and pinching and biting, ever gain anything by
their malice; for when the bags come to be shaken out, it has always
been seen, and is so still, that whilst a good word gains love and
profit, slander brings enmity and ruin; and when you shall have heard
how this happens, you will say I speak with reason.

Once upon a time there were two brothers--Cianne, who was as rich as a
lord, and Lise, who had barely enough to live upon: but poor as one was
in fortune, so pitiful was the other in mind, for he would not have
given his brother a farthing were it to save his life; so that poor
Lise in despair left his country, and set out to wander over the world.
And he wandered on and on, till one wet and cold evening he came to an
inn, where he found twelve youths seated around a fire, who, when they
saw poor Lise benumbed with cold, partly from the severe season and
partly from his ragged clothes, invited him to sit down by the fire.

Lise accepted the invitation, for he needed it greatly, and began to
warm himself. And as he was warming himself, one of the young men whose
face was such a picture of moroseness as to make you die of fright,
said to him, "What think you, countryman, of this weather?"

"What do I think of it?" replied Lise; "I think that all the months of
the year perform their duty; but we, who know not what we would have,
wish to give laws to Heaven; and wanting to have things our own way, we
do not fish deeply enough to the bottom, to find out whether what comes
into our fancy be good or evil, useful or hurtful. In winter, when it
rains, we want the sun in Leo, and in the month of August the clouds to
discharge themselves; not reflecting, that were this the case, the
seasons would be turned topsy-turvy, the seed sown would be lost, the
crops would be destroyed, the bodies of men would faint away, and
Nature would go head over heels. Therefore let us leave Heaven to its
own course; for it has made the tree to mitigate with its wood the
severity of winter, and with its leaves the heat of summer."

"You speak like Samson!" replied the youth; "but you cannot deny that
this month of March, in which we now are, is very impertinent to send
all this frost and rain, snow and hail, wind and storm, these fogs and
tempests and other troubles, that make one's life a burden."

"You tell only the ill of this poor month," replied Lisa, "but do not
speak of the benefits it yields us; for, by bringing forward the
Spring, it commences the production of things, and is alone the cause
that the Sun proves the happiness of the present time, by leading him
into the house of the Ram."

The youth was greatly pleased at what Lise said, for he was in truth no
other than the month of March itself, who had arrived at that inn with
his eleven brothers; and to reward Lise's goodness, who had not even
found anything ill to say of a month so sad that the shepherds do not
like to mention it, he gave him a beautiful little casket, saying,
"Take this, and if you want anything, only ask for it, and when you
open this box you will see it before you." Lise thanked the youth, with
many expressions of respect, and laying the little box under his head
by way of a pillow, he went to sleep.

As soon, however, as the Sun, with the pencil of his rays, had
retouched the dark shadows of Night, Lise took leave of the youths and
set out on his way. But he had hardly proceeded fifty steps from the
inn, when, opening the casket, he said, "Ah, my friend, I wish I had a
litter lined with cloth, and with a little fire inside, that I might
travel warm and comfortable through the snow!" No sooner had he uttered
the words than there appeared a litter, with bearers, who, lifting him
up, placed him in it; whereupon he told them to carry him home.

When the hour was come to set the jaws to work Lise opened the little
box and said, "I wish for something to eat." And instantly there
appeared a profusion of the choicest food, and there was such a banquet
that ten crowned kings might have feasted on it.

One evening, having come to a wood which did not give admittance to the
Sun because he came from suspected places, Lise opened the little
casket, and said, "I should like to rest to-night on this beautiful
spot, where the river is making harmony upon the stones as
accompaniment to the song of the cool breezes." And instantly there
appeared, under an oilcloth tent, a couch of fine scarlet, with down
mattresses, covered with a Spanish counterpane and sheets as light as a
feather. Then he asked for something to eat, and in a trice there was
set out a sideboard covered with silver and gold fit for a prince, and
under another tent a table was spread with viands, the savoury smell of
which extended a hundred miles.

When he had eaten enough, he laid himself down to sleep; and as soon as
the Cock, who is the spy of the Sun, announced to his master that the
Shades of Night were worn and wearied, and it was now time for him,
like a skilful general, to fall upon their rear and make a slaughter of
them, Lise opened his little box and said, "I wish to have a handsome
dress, for to-day I shall see my brother, and I should like to make his
mouth water." No sooner said than done: immediately a princely dress of
the richest black velvet appeared, with edgings of red camlet and a
lining of yellow cloth embroidered all over, which looked like a field
of flowers. So dressing himself, Lise got into the litter and soon
reached his brother's house.

When Cianne saw his brother arrive, with all this splendour and luxury,
he wished to know what good fortune had befallen him. Then Lise told
him of the youths whom he had met in the inn, and of the present they
had made him; but he kept to himself his conversation with the youths.

Cianne was now all impatience to get away from his brother, and told
him to go and rest himself, as he was no doubt tired; then he started
post-haste, and soon arrived at the inn, where, finding the same
youths, he fell into chat with them. And when the youth asked him the
same question, what he thought of that month of March, Cianne, making a
big mouth, said, "Confound the miserable month! the enemy of shepherds,
which stirs up all the ill-humours and brings sickness to our bodies. A
month of which, whenever we would announce ruin to a man, we say,  Go,
March has shaved you!' A month of which, when you want to call a man
presumptuous, you say,  What cares March?' A month in short so hateful,
that it would be the best fortune for the world, the greatest blessing
to the earth, the greatest gain to men, were it excluded from the band
of brothers."

March, who heard himself thus slandered, suppressed his anger till the
morning, intending then to reward Cianne for his calumny; and when
Cianne wished to depart, he gave him a fine whip, saying to him,
"Whenever you wish for anything, only say,  Whip, give me a hundred!'
and you shall see pearls strung upon a rush."

Cianne, thanking the youth, went his way in great haste, not wishing to
make trial of the whip until he reached home. But hardly had he set
foot in the house, when he went into a secret chamber, intending to
hide the money which he expected to receive from the whip. Then he
said, "Whip, give me a hundred!" and thereupon the whip gave him more
than he looked for, making a score on his legs and face like a musical
composer, so that Lise, hearing his cries, came running to the spot;
and when he saw that the whip, like a runaway horse, could not stop
itself, he opened the little box and brought it to a standstill. Then
he asked Cianne what had happened to him, and upon hearing his story,
he told him he had no one to blame but himself; for like a blockhead he
alone had caused his own misfortune, acting like the camel, that wanted
to have horns and lost its ears; but he bade him mind another time and
keep a bridle on his tongue, which was the key that had opened to him
the storehouse of misfortune; for if he had spoken well of the youths,
he would perhaps have had the same good fortune, especially as to speak
well of any one is a merchandise that costs nothing, and usually brings
profit that is not expected. In conclusion Lise comforted him, bidding
him not seek more wealth than Heaven had give him, for his little
casket would suffice to fill the houses of thirty misers, and Cianne
should be master of all he possessed, since to the generous man Heaven
is treasurer; and he added that, although another brother might have
borne Cianne ill-will for the cruelty with which he had treated him in
his poverty, yet he reflected that his avarice had been a favourable
wind which had brought him to this port, and therefore wished to show
himself grateful for the benefit.

When Cianne heard these things, he begged his brother's pardon for his
past unkindness, and entering into partnership they enjoyed together
their good fortune, and from that time forward Cianne spoke well of
everything, however bad it might be; for--

     "The dog that was scalded with hot water, for ever dreads that
which is cold."



XXVII

PINTOSMALTO

It has always been more difficult for a man to keep than to get; for in
the one case fortune aids, which often assists injustice, but in the
other case sense is required. Therefore we frequently find a person
deficient in cleverness rise to wealth, and then, from want of sense,
roll over heels to the bottom; as you will see clearly from the story I
am going to tell you, if you are quick of understanding.

A merchant once had an only daughter, whom he wished greatly to see
married; but as often as he struck this note, he found her a hundred
miles off from the desired pitch, for the foolish girl would never
consent to marry, and the father was in consequence the most unhappy
and miserable man in the world. Now it happened one day that he was
going to a fair; so he asked his daughter, who was named Betta, what
she would like him to bring her on his return. And she said, "Papa, if
you love me, bring me half a hundredweight of Palermo sugar, and as
much again of sweet almonds, with four to six bottles of scented water,
and a little musk and amber, also forty pearls, two sapphires, a few
garnets and rubies, with some gold thread, and above all a trough and a
little silver trowel." Her father wondered at this extravagant demand,
nevertheless he would not refuse his daughter; so he went to the fair,
and on his return brought her all that she had requested.

As soon as Betta received these things, she shut herself up in a
chamber, and began to make a great quantity of paste of almonds and
sugar, mixed with rosewater and perfumes, and set to work to form a
most beautiful youth, making his hair of gold thread, his eyes of
sapphires, his teeth of pearls, his lips of rubies; and she gave him
such grace that speech alone was wanting to him. When she had done all
this, having heard say that at the prayers of a certain King of Cyprus
a statue had once come to life, she prayed to the goddess of Love so
long that at last the statue began to open its eyes; and increasing her
prayers, it began to breathe; and after breathing, words came out; and
at last, disengaging all its limbs, it began to walk.

With a joy far greater than if she had gained a kingdom, Betta embraced
and kissed the youth, and taking him by the hand, she led him before
her father and said, "My lord and father, you have always told me that
you wished to see me married, and in order to please you I have now
chosen a husband after my own heart." When her father saw the handsome
youth come out of his daughter's room, whom he had not seen enter it,
he stood amazed, and at the sight of such beauty, which folks would
have paid a halfpenny a head to gaze at, he consented that the marriage
should take place. So a great feast was made, at which, among the other
ladies present, there appeared a great unknown Queen, who, seeing the
beauty of Pintosmalto (for that was the name Betta gave him), fell
desperately in love with him. Now Pintosmalto, who had only opened his
eyes on the wickedness of the world three hours before, and was as
innocent as a babe, accompanied the strangers who had come to celebrate
his nuptials to the stairs, as his bride had told him; and when he did
the same with this Queen, she took him by the hand and led him quietly
to her coach, drawn by six horses, which stood in the courtyard; then
taking him into it, she ordered the coachman to drive off and away to
her country.

After Betta had waited a while in vain expecting Pintosmalto to return,
she sent down into the courtyard to see whether he were speaking with
any one there; then she sent up to the roof to see if he had gone to
take fresh air; but finding him nowhere, she directly imagined that, on
account of his great beauty, he had been stolen from her. So she
ordered the usual proclamations to be made; but at last, as no tidings
of him were brought, she formed the resolution to go all the world over
in search of him, and dressing herself as a poor girl, she set out on
her way. After some months she came to the house of a good old woman,
who received her with great kindness; and when she had heard Betta's
misfortune, she took compassion on her, and taught her three sayings.
The first was, "Tricche varlacche, the house rains!" the second, "Anola
tranola, the fountain plays!"; the third, "Scatola matola, the sun
shines!"--telling her to repeat these words whenever she was in
trouble, and they would be of good service to her.

Betta wondered greatly at this present of chaff, nevertheless she said
to herself, "He who blows into your mouth does not wish to see you
dead, and the plant that strikes root does not wither; everything has
its use; who knows what good fortune may be contained in these words?"
So saying, she thanked the old woman, and set out upon her way. And
after a long journey she came to a beautiful city called Round Mount,
where she went straight to the royal palace, and begged for the love of
Heaven a little shelter in the stable. So the ladies of the court
ordered a small room to be given her on the stairs; and while poor
Betta was sitting there she saw Pintosmalto pass by, whereat her joy
was so great that she was on the point of slipping down from the tree
of life. But seeing the trouble she was in, Betta wished to make proof
of the first saying which the old woman had told her; and no sooner had
she repeated the words, "Tricche varlacche, the house rains!" than
instantly there appeared before her a beautiful little coach of gold
set all over with jewels, which ran about the chamber of itself and was
a wonder to behold.

When the ladies of the court saw this sight they went and told the
Queen, who without loss of time ran to Betta's chamber; and when she
saw the beautiful little coach, she asked whether she would sell it,
and offered to give whatever she might demand. But Betta replied that,
although she was poor she would not sell it for all the gold in the
world, but if the Queen wished for the little coach, she must allow her
to pass one night at the door of Pintosmalto's chamber.

The Queen was amazed at the folly of the poor girl, who although she
was all in rags would nevertheless give up such riches for a mere whim;
however, she resolved to take the good mouthful offered her, and, by
giving Pintosmalto a sleeping-draught, to satisfy the poor girl but pay
her in bad coin.

As soon as the Night was come, when the stars in the sky and the
glowworms on the earth were to pass in review, the Queen gave a
sleeping-draught to Pintosmalto, who did everything he was told, and
sent him to bed. And no sooner had he thrown himself on the mattress
than he fell as sound asleep as a dormouse. Poor Betta, who thought
that night to relate all her past troubles, seeing now that she had no
audience, fell to lamenting beyond measure, blaming herself for all
that she had done for his sake; and the unhappy girl never closed her
mouth, nor did the sleeping Pintosmalto ever open his eyes until the
Sun appeared with the aqua regia of his rays to separate the shades
from the light, when the Queen came down, and taking Pintosmalto by the
hand, said to Betta, "Now be content."

"May you have such content all the days of your life!" replied Betta in
an undertone; "for I have passed so bad a night that I shall not soon
forget it."

The poor girl, however, could not resist her longing, and resolved to
make trial of the second saying; so she repeated the words, "Anola
tranola, the fountain plays!" and instantly there appeared a golden
cage, with a beautiful bird made of precious stones and gold, which
sang like a nightingale. When the ladies saw this they went and told it
to the Queen, who wished to see the bird; then she asked the same
question as about the little coach, and Betta made the same reply as
before. Whereupon the Queen, who perceived, as she thought, what a
silly creature Betta was, promised to grant her request, and took the
cage with the bird. And as soon as night came she gave Pintosmalto a
sleeping-draught as before, and sent him to bed. When Betta saw that he
slept like a dead person, she began again to wail and lament, saying
things that would have moved a flintstone to compassion; and thus she
passed another night, full of trouble, weeping and wailing and tearing
her hair. But as soon as it was day the Queen came to fetch her
captive, and left poor Betta in grief and sorrow, and biting her hands
with vexation at the trick that had been played her.

In the morning when Pintosmalto went to a garden outside the city gate
to pluck some figs, he met a cobbler, who lived in a room close to
where Betta lay and had not lost a word of all she had said. Then he
told Pintosmalto of the weeping, lamentation, and crying of the unhappy
beggar-girl; and when Pintosmalto, who already began to get a little
more sense, heard this, he guessed how matters stood, and resolved
that, if the same thing happened again, he would not drink what the
Queen gave him.

Betta now wished to make the third trial, so she said the words,
"Scatola matola, the sun shines!" and instantly there appeared a
quantity of stuffs of silk and gold, and embroidered scarfs, with a
golden cup; in short, the Queen herself could not have brought together
so many beautiful ornaments. When the ladies saw these things they told
their mistress, who endeavoured to obtain them as she had done the
others; but Betta replied as before, that if the Queen wished to have
them she must let her spend the night at the door of the chamber. Then
the Queen said to herself, "What can I lose by satisfying this silly
girl, in order to get from her these beautiful things?" So taking all
the treasures which Betta offered her, as soon as Night appeared, the
instrument for the debt contracted with Sleep and Repose being
liquidated, she gave the sleeping-draught to Pintosmalto; but this time
he did not swallow it, and making an excuse to leave the room, he spat
it out again, and then went to bed.

Betta now began the same tune again, saying how she had kneaded him
with her own hands of sugar and almonds, how she had made his hair of
gold, and his eyes and mouth of pearls and precious stones, and how he
was indebted to her for his life, which the gods had granted to her
prayers, and lastly how he had been stolen from her, and she had gone
seeking him with such toil and trouble. Then she went on to tell him
how she had watched two nights at the door of his room, and for leave
to do so had given up two treasures, and yet had not been able to hear
a single word from him, so that this was the last night of her hopes
and the conclusion of her life.

When Pintosmalto, who had remained awake, heard these words, and called
to mind as a dream all that had passed, he rose and embraced her; and
as Night had just come forth with her black mask to direct the dance of
the Stars, he went very quietly into the chamber of the Queen, who was
in a deep sleep, and took from her all the things that she had taken
from Betta, and all the jewels and money which were in a desk, to repay
himself for his past troubles. Then returning to his wife, they set off
that very hour, and travelled on and on until they arrived at her
father's house, where they found him alive and well; and from the joy
of seeing his daughter again he became like a boy of fifteen years. But
when the Queen found neither Pintosmalto, nor beggar-girl, nor jewels,
she tore her hair and rent her clothes, and called to mind the saying--

     "He who cheats must not complain if he be cheated."



XXVIII

THE GOLDEN ROOT

A person who is over-curious, and wants to know more than he ought,
always carries the match in his hand to set fire to the powder-room of
his own fortunes; and he who pries into others' affairs is frequently a
loser in his own; for generally he who digs holes to search for
treasures, comes to a ditch into which he himself falls--as happened to
the daughter of a gardener in the following manner.

There was once a gardener who was so very very poor that, however hard
he worked, he could not manage to get bread for his family. So he gave
three little pigs to his three daughters, that they might rear them,
and thus get something for a little dowry. Then Pascuzza and Cice, who
were the eldest, drove their little pigs to feed in a beautiful meadow;
but they would not let Parmetella, who was the youngest daughter, go
with them, and sent her away, telling her to go and feed her pig
somewhere else. So Parmetella drove her little animal into a wood,
where the Shades were holding out against the assaults of the Sun; and
coming to a pasture--in the middle of which flowed a fountain, that,
like the hostess of an inn where cold water is sold, was inviting the
passers-by with its silver tongue--she found a certain tree with golden
leaves. Then plucking one of them, she took it to her father, who with
great joy sold it for more than twenty ducats, which served to stop up
a hole in his affairs. And when he asked Parmetella where she had found
it, she said, "Take it, sir, and ask no questions, unless you would
spoil your good fortune." The next day she returned and did the same;
and she went on plucking the leaves from the tree until it was entirely
stript, as if it had been plundered by the winds of Autumn. Then she
perceived that the tree had a large golden root, which she could not
pull up with her hands; so she went home, and fetching an axe set to
work to lay bare the root around the foot of the tree; and raising the
trunk as well as she could, she found under it a beautiful porphyry
staircase.

Parmetella, who was curious beyond measure, went down the stairs, and
walking through a large and deep cavern, she came to a beautiful plain,
on which was a splendid palace, where only gold and silver were trodden
underfoot, and pearls and precious stones everywhere met the eye. And
as Parmetella stood wondering at all these splendid things, not seeing
any person moving among so many beautiful fixtures, she went into a
chamber, in which were a number of pictures; and on them were seen
painted various beautiful things--especially the ignorance of man
esteemed wise, the injustice of him who held the scales, the injuries
avenged by Heaven--things truly to amaze one. And in the same chamber
also was a splendid table, set out with things to eat and to drink.

Seeing no one, Parmetella, who was very hungry, sat down at a table to
eat like a fine count; but whilst she was in the midst of the feast,
behold a handsome Slave entered, who said, "Stay! do not go away, for I
will have you for my wife, and will make you the happiest woman in the
world." In spite of her fear, Parmetella took heart at this good offer,
and consenting to what the Slave proposed, a coach of diamonds was
instantly given her, drawn by four golden steeds, with wings of
emeralds and rubies, who carried her flying through the air to take an
airing; and a number of apes, clad in cloth of gold, were given to
attend on her person, who forthwith arrayed her from head to foot, and
adorned her so that she looked just like a Queen.

When night was come, and the Sun--desiring to sleep on the banks of the
river of India untroubled by gnats--had put out the light, the Slave
said to Parmetella, "My dear, now go to rest in this bed; but remember
first to put out the candle, and mind what I say, or ill will betide
you." Then Parmetella did as he told her; but no sooner had she closed
her eyes than the blackamoor, changing to a handsome youth, lay down to
sleep. But the next morning, ere the Dawn went forth to seek fresh eggs
in the fields of the sky the youth arose and took his other form again,
leaving Parmetella full of wonder and curiosity.

And again the following night, when Parmetella went to rest, she put
out the candle as she had done the night before, and the youth came as
usual and lay down to sleep. But no sooner had he shut his eyes than
Parmetella arose, took a steel which she had provided, and lighting the
tinder applied a match; then taking the candle, she raised the
coverlet, and beheld the ebony turned to ivory, and the coal to chalk.
And whilst she stood gazing with open mouth, and contemplating the most
beautiful pencilling that Nature had ever given upon the canvas of
Wonder, the youth awoke, and began to reproach Parmetella, saying, "Ah,
woe is me! for your prying curiosity I have to suffer another seven
years this accursed punishment. But begone! Run, scamper off! Take
yourself out of my sight! You know not what good fortune you lose." So
saying, he vanished like quicksilver.

The poor girl left the palace, cold and stiff with affright, and with
her head bowed to the ground. And when she had come out of the cavern
she met a fairy, who said to her, "My child, how my heart grieves at
your misfortune! Unhappy girl, you are going to the slaughter-house,
where you will pass over the bridge no wider than a hair. Therefore, to
provide against your peril, take these seven spindles with these seven
figs, and a little jar of honey, and these seven pairs of iron shoes,
and walk on and on without stopping, until they are worn out; then you
will see seven women standing upon a balcony of a house, and spinning
from above down to the ground, with the thread wound upon the bone of a
dead person. Remain quite still and hidden, and when the thread comes
down, take out the bone and put in its place a spindle besmeared with
honey, with a fig in the place of the little button. Then as soon as
the women draw up the spindles and taste the honey, they will say--

      He who has made my spindle sweet,
     Shall in return with good fortune meet!'

And after repeating these words, they will say, one after another, 'O
you who brought us these sweet things appear!' Then you must answer,
Nay, for you will eat me.' And they will say,  We swear by our spoon
that we will not eat you!' But do not stir; and they will continue,  We
swear by our spit that we will not eat you!' But stand firm, as if
rooted to the spot; and they will say,  We swear by our broom that we
will not eat you!' Still do not believe them; and when they say,  We
swear by our pail that we will not eat you!' shut your mouth, and say
not a word, or it will cost you your life. At last they will say,  We
swear by Thunder-and-Lightning that we will not eat you!' Then take
courage and mount up, for they will do you no harm."

When Parmetella heard this, she set off and walked over hill and dale,
until at the end of seven years the iron shoes were worn out; and
coming to a large house, with a projecting balcony, she saw the seven
women spinning. So she did as the fairy had advised her; and after a
thousand wiles and allurements, they swore by Thunder-and-Lightning,
whereupon she showed herself and mounted up. Then they all seven said
to her, "Traitress, you are the cause that our brother has lived twice
seven long years in the cavern, far away from us, in the form of a
blackamoor! But never mind; although you have been clever enough to
stop our throat with the oath, you shall on the first opportunity pay
off both the old and the new reckoning. But now hear what you must do.
Hide yourself behind this trough, and when our mother comes, who would
swallow you down at once, rise up and seize her behind her back; hold
her fast, and do not let her go until she swears by
Thunder-and-Lightning not to harm you."

Parmetella did as she was bid, and after the ogress had sworn by the
fire-shovel, by the spinning-wheel, by the reel, by the sideboard, and
by the peg, at last she swore by Thunder-and-Lightning; whereupon
Parmetella let go her hold, and showed herself to the ogress, who said,
"You have caught me this time; but take care, Traitress! for, at the
first shower, I'll send you to the Lava."

One day the ogress, who was on the look-out for an opportunity to
devour Parmetella, took twelve sacks of various seeds--peas,
chick-peas, lentils, vetches, kidney-beans, beans, and lupins--and
mixed them all together; then she said to her, "Traitress, take these
seeds and sort them all, so that each kind may be separated from the
rest; and if they are not all sorted by this evening, I'll swallow you
like a penny tart."

Poor Parmetella sat down beside the sacks, weeping, and said, "O
mother, mother, how will this golden root prove a root of woes to me!
Now is my misery completed; by seeing a black face turned white, all
has become black before my eyes. Alas! I am ruined and undone--there is
no help for it. I already seem as if I were in the throat of that
horrid ogress; there is no one to help me, there is no one to advise
me, there is no one to comfort me!"

As she was lamenting thus, lo! Thunder-and-Lightning appeared like a
flash, for the banishment laid upon him by the spell had just ended.
Although he was angry with Parmetella, yet his blood could not turn to
water, and seeing her grieving thus he said to her, "Traitress, what
makes you weep so?" Then she told him of his mother's ill-treatment of
her, and her wish to make an end of her, and eat her up. But
Thunder-and-Lightning replied, "Calm yourself and take heart, for it
shall not be as she said." And instantly scattering all the seeds on
the ground he made a deluge of ants spring up, who forthwith set to
work to heap up all the seeds separately, each kind by itself, and
Parmetella filled the sacks with them.

When the ogress came home and found the task done, she was almost in
despair, and cried, "That dog Thunder-and-Lightning has played me this
trick; but you shall not escape thus! So take these pieces of bed-tick,
which are enough for twelve mattresses, and mind that by this evening
they are filled with feathers, or else I will make mincemeat of you."

The poor girl took the bed-ticks, and sitting down upon the ground
began to weep and lament bitterly, making two fountains of her eyes.
But presently Thunder-and-Lightning appeared, and said to her, "Do not
weep, Traitress,--leave it to me, and I will bring you to port; so let
down your hair, spread the bed-ticks upon the ground, and fall to
weeping and wailing, and crying out that the king of the birds is dead,
then you'll see what will happen."

Parmetella did as she was told, and behold a cloud of birds suddenly
appeared that darkened the air; and flapping their wings they let fall
their feathers by basketfuls, so that in less than an hour the
mattresses were all filled. When the ogress came home and saw the task
done, she swelled up with rage till she almost burst, saying,
"Thunder-and-Lightning is determined to plague me, but may I be dragged
at an ape's tail if I let her escape!" Then she said to Parmetella,
"Run quickly to my sister's house, and tell her to send me the musical
instruments; for I have resolved that Thunder-and-Lightning shall
marry, and we will make a feast fit for a king." At the same time she
sent to bid her sister, when the poor girl came to ask for the
instruments, instantly to kill and cook her, and she would come and
partake of the feast.

Parmetella, hearing herself ordered to perform an easier task, was in
great joy, thinking that the weather had begun to grow milder. Alas,
how crooked is human judgment! On the way she met
Thunder-and-Lightning, who, seeing her walking at a quick pace, said to
her, "Whither are you going, wretched girl? See you not that you are on
the way to the slaughter; that you are forging your own fetters, and
sharpening the knife and mixing the poison for yourself; that you are
sent to the ogress for her to swallow you? But listen to me and fear
not. Take this little loaf, this bundle of hay, and this stone; and
when you come to the house of my aunt, you will find a bulldog, which
will fly barking at you to bite you; but give him this little loaf, and
it will stop his throat. And when you have passed the dog, you will
meet a horse running loose, which will run up to kick and trample on
you; but give him the hay, and you will clog his feet. At last you will
come to a door, banging to and fro continually; put this stone before
it, and you will stop its fury. Then mount upstairs and you find the
ogress, with a little child in her arms, and the oven ready heated to
bake you. Whereupon she will say to you,  Hold this little creature,
and wait here till I go and fetch the instruments.' But mind--she will
only go to whet her tusks, in order to tear you in pieces. Then throw
the little child into the oven without pity, take the instruments which
stand behind the door, and hie off before the ogress returns, or else
you are lost. The instruments are in a box, but beware of opening it,
or you will repent."

Parmetella did all that Thunder-and-Lightning told her; but on her way
back with the instruments she opened the box, and lo and behold! they
all flew out and about--here a flute, there a flageolet, here a pipe,
there a bagpipe, making a thousand different sounds in the air, whilst
Parmetella stood looking on and tearing her hair in despair.

Meanwhile the ogress came downstairs, and not finding Parmetella, she
went to the window, and called out to the door, "Crush that traitress!"
But the door answered:

     "I will not use the poor girl ill,
     For she has made me at last stand still."

Then the ogress cried out to the horse, "Trample on the thief!" But the
horse replied:

     "Let the poor girl go her way,
     For she has given me the hay."

And lastly, the ogress called to the dog, saying, "Bite the rogue!" But
the dog answered:

     "I'll not hurt a hair of her head,
     For she it was who gave me the bread."

Now as Parmetella ran crying after the instruments, she met
Thunder-and-Lightning, who scolded her well, saying, "Traitress, will
you not learn at your cost that by your fatal curiosity you are brought
to this plight?" Then he called back the instruments with a whistle,
and shut them up again in the box, telling Parmetella to take them to
his mother. But when the ogress saw her, she cried aloud, "O cruel
fate! even my sister is against me, and refuses to give me this
pleasure."

Meanwhile the new bride arrived--a hideous pest, a compound of
ugliness, a harpy, an evil shade, a horror, a monster, a large tub, who
with a hundred flowers and boughs about her looked like a newly opened
inn. Then the ogress made a great banquet for her; and being full of
gall and malice, she had the table placed close to a well, where she
seated her seven daughters, each with a torch in one hand; but she gave
two torches to Parmetella, and made her sit at the edge of the well, on
purpose that, when she fell asleep, she might tumble to the bottom.

Now whilst the dishes were passing to and fro, and their blood began to
get warm, Thunder-and-Lightning, who turned quite sick at the sight of
the new bride, said to Parmetella, "Traitress, do you love me?" "Ay, to
the top of the roof," she replied. And he answered, "If you love me,
give me a kiss." "Nay," said Parmetella, "YOU indeed, who have such a
pretty creature at your side! Heaven preserve her to you a hundred
years in health and with plenty of sons!" Then the new bride answered,
"It is very clear that you are a simpleton, and would remain so were
you to live a hundred years, acting the prude as you do, and refusing
to kiss so handsome a youth, whilst I let a herdsman kiss me for a
couple of chestnuts."

At these words the bridegroom swelled with rage like a toad, so that
his food remained sticking in his throat; however, he put a good face
on the matter and swallowed the pill, intending to make the reckoning
and settle the balance afterwards. But when the tables were removed,
and the ogress and his sisters had gone away, Thunder-and-Lightning
said to the new bride, "Wife, did you see this proud creature refuse me
a kiss?" "She was a simpleton," replied the bride, "to refuse a kiss to
such a handsome young man, whilst I let a herdsman kiss me for a couple
of chestnuts."

Thunder-and-Lightning could contain himself no longer; the mustard got
up into his nose, and with the flash of scorn and the thunder of
action, he seized a knife and stabbed the bride, and digging a hole in
the cellar he buried her. Then embracing Parmetella he said to her,
"You are my jewel, the flower of women, the mirror of honour! Then turn
those eyes upon me, give me that hand, put out those lips, draw near to
me, my heart! for I will be yours as long as the world lasts."

The next morning, when the Sun aroused his fiery steeds from their
watery stable, and drove them to pasture on the fields sown by the
Dawn, the ogress came with fresh eggs for the newly married couple,
that the young wife might be able to say, "Happy is she who marries and
gets a mother-in-law!" But finding Parmetella in the arms of her son,
and hearing what had passed, she ran to her sister, to concert some
means of removing this thorn from her eyes without her son's being able
to prevent it. But when she found that her sister, out of grief at the
loss of her daughter, had crept into the oven herself and was burnt,
her despair was so great, that from an ogress she became a ram, and
butted her head against the wall under she broke her pate. Then
Thunder-and-Lightning made peace between Parmetella and her
sisters-in-law, and they all lived happy and content, finding the
saying come true, that--

     "Patience conquers all."



XXIX

SUN, MOON, AND TALIA

It is a well-known fact that the cruel man is generally his own
hangman; and he who throws stones at Heaven frequently comes off with a
broken head. But the reverse of the medal shows us that innocence is a
shield of fig-tree wood, upon which the sword of malice is broken, or
blunts its point; so that, when a poor man fancies himself already dead
and buried, he revives again in bone and flesh, as you shall hear in
the story which I am going to draw from the cask of memory with the tap
of my tongue.

There was once a great Lord, who, having a daughter born to him named
Talia, commanded the seers and wise men of his kingdom to come and tell
him her fortune; and after various counsellings they came to the
conclusion, that a great peril awaited her from a piece of stalk in
some flax. Thereupon he issued a command, prohibiting any flax or hemp,
or such-like thing, to be brought into his house, hoping thus to avoid
the danger.

When Talia was grown up, and was standing one day at the window, she
saw an old woman pass by who was spinning. She had never seen a distaff
or a spindle, and being vastly pleased with the twisting and twirling
of the thread, her curiosity was so great that she made the old woman
come upstairs. Then, taking the distaff in her hand, Talia began to
draw out the thread, when, by mischance, a piece of stalk in the flax
getting under her finger-nail, she fell dead upon the ground; at which
sight the old woman hobbled downstairs as quickly as she could.

When the unhappy father heard of the disaster that had befallen Talia,
after weeping bitterly, he placed her in that palace in the country,
upon a velvet seat under a canopy of brocade; and fastening the doors,
he quitted for ever the place which had been the cause of such
misfortune to him, in order to drive all remembrance of it from his
mind.

Now, a certain King happened to go one day to the chase, and a falcon
escaping from him flew in at the window of that palace. When the King
found that the bird did not return at his call, he ordered his
attendants to knock at the door, thinking that the palace was
inhabited; and after knocking for some time, the King ordered them to
fetch a vine-dresser's ladder, wishing himself to scale the house and
see what was inside. Then he mounted the ladder, and going through the
whole palace, he stood aghast at not finding there any living person.
At last he came to the room where Talia was lying, as if enchanted; and
when the King saw her, he called to her, thinking that she was asleep,
but in vain, for she still slept on, however loud he called. So, after
admiring her beauty awhile, the King returned home to his kingdom,
where for a long time he forgot all that had happened.

Meanwhile, two little twins, one a boy and the other a girl, who looked
like two little jewels, wandered, from I know not where, into the
palace and found Talia in a trance. At first they were afraid because
they tried in vain to awaken her; but, becoming bolder, the girl gently
took Talia's finger into her mouth, to bite it and wake her up by this
means; and so it happened that the splinter of flax came out. Thereupon
she seemed to awake as from a deep sleep; and when she saw those little
jewels at her side, she took them to her heart, and loved them more
than her life; but she wondered greatly at seeing herself quite alone
in the palace with two children, and food and refreshment brought her
by unseen hands.

After a time the King, calling Talia to mind, took occasion one day
when he went to the chase to go and see her; and when he found her
awakened, and with two beautiful little creatures by her side, he was
struck dumb with rapture. Then the King told Talia who he was, and they
formed a great league and friendship, and he remained there for several
days, promising, as he took leave, to return and fetch her.

When the King went back to his own kingdom he was for ever repeating
the names of Talia and the little ones, insomuch that, when he was
eating he had Talia in his mouth, and Sun and Moon (for so he named the
children); nay, even when he went to rest he did not leave off calling
on them, first one and then the other.

Now the King's stepmother had grown suspicious at his long absence at
the chase, and when she heard him calling thus on Talia, Sun, and Moon,
she waxed wroth, and said to the King's secretary, "Hark ye, friend,
you stand in great danger, between the axe and the block; tell me who
it is that my stepson is enamoured of, and I will make you rich; but if
you conceal the truth from me, I'll make you rue it."

The man, moved on the one side by fear, and on the other pricked by
interest, which is a bandage to the eyes of honour, the blind of
justice, and an old horse-shoe to trip up good faith, told the Queen
the whole truth. Whereupon she sent the secretary in the King's name to
Talia, saying that he wished to see the children. Then Talia sent them
with great joy, but the Queen commanded the cook to kill them, and
serve them up in various ways for her wretched stepson to eat.

Now the cook, who had a tender heart, seeing the two pretty little
golden pippins, took compassion on them, and gave them to his wife,
bidding her keep them concealed; then he killed and dressed two little
kids in a hundred different ways. When the King came, the Queen quickly
ordered the dishes served up; and the King fell to eating with great
delight, exclaiming, "How good this is! Oh, how excellent, by the soul
of my grandfather!" And the old Queen all the while kept saying, "Eat
away, for you know what you eat." At first the King paid no attention
to what she said; but at last, hearing the music continue, he replied,
"Ay, I know well enough what I eat, for YOU brought nothing to the
house." And at last, getting up in a rage, he went off to a villa at a
little distance to cool his anger.

Meanwhile the Queen, not satisfied with what she had done, called the
secretary again, and sent him to fetch Talia, pretending that the King
wished to see her. At this summons Talia went that very instant,
longing to see the light of her eyes, and not knowing that only the
smoke awaited her. But when she came before the Queen, the latter said
to her, with the face of a Nero, and full of poison as a viper,
"Welcome, Madam Sly-cheat! Are you indeed the pretty mischief-maker?
Are you the weed that has caught my son's eye and given me all this
trouble."

When Talia heard this she began to excuse herself; but the Queen would
not listen to a word; and having a large fire lighted in the courtyard,
she commanded that Talia should be thrown into the flames. Poor Talia,
seeing matters come to a bad pass, fell on her knees before the Queen,
and besought her at least to grant her time to take the clothes from
off her back. Whereupon the Queen, not so much out of pity for the
unhappy girl, as to get possession of her dress, which was embroidered
all over with gold and pearls, said to her, "Undress yourself--I allow
you." Then Talia began to undress, and as she took off each garment she
uttered an exclamation of grief; and when she had stripped off her
cloak, her gown, and her jacket, and was proceeding to take off her
petticoat, they seized her and were dragging her away. At that moment
the King came up, and seeing the spectacle he demanded to know the
whole truth; and when he asked also for the children, and heard that
his stepmother had ordered them to be killed, the unhappy King gave
himself up to despair.

He then ordered her to be thrown into the same fire which had been
lighted for Talia, and the secretary with her, who was the handle of
this cruel game and the weaver of this wicked web. Then he was going to
do the same with the cook, thinking that he had killed the children;
but the cook threw himself at the King's feet and said, "Truly, sir
King, I would desire no other sinecure in return for the service I have
done you than to be thrown into a furnace full of live coals; I would
ask no other gratuity than the thrust of a spike; I would wish for no
other amusement than to be roasted in the fire; I would desire no other
privilege than to have the ashes of the cook mingled with those of a
Queen. But I look for no such great reward for having saved the
children, and brought them back to you in spite of that wicked creature
who wished to kill them."

When the King heard these words he was quite beside himself; he
appeared to dream, and could not believe what his ears had heard. Then
he said to the cook, "If it is true that you have saved the children,
be assured I will take you from turning the spit, and reward you so
that you shall call yourself the happiest man in the world."

As the King was speaking these words, the wife of the cook, seeing the
dilemma her husband was in, brought Sun and Moon before the King, who,
playing at the game of three with Talia and the other children, went
round and round kissing first one and then another. Then giving the
cook a large reward, he made him his chamberlain; and he took Talia to
wife, who enjoyed a long life with her husband and the children,
acknowledging that--

     "He who has luck may go to bed,
     And bliss will rain upon his head."



XXX

NENNILLO AND NENNELLA

Woe to him who thinks to find a governess for his children by giving
them a stepmother! He only brings into his house the cause of their
ruin. There never yet was a stepmother who looked kindly on the
children of another; or if by chance such a one were ever found, she
would be regarded as a miracle, and be called a white crow. But beside
all those of whom you may have heard, I will now tell you of another,
to be added to the list of heartless stepmothers, whom you will
consider well deserving the punishment she purchased for herself with
ready money.

There was once a good man named Jannuccio, who had two children,
Nennillo and Nennella, whom he loved as much as his own life. But Death
having, with the smooth file of Time, severed the prison-bars of his
wife's soul, he took to himself a cruel woman, who had no sooner set
foot in his house than she began to ride the high horse, saying, "Am I
come here indeed to look after other folk's children? A pretty job I
have undertaken, to have all this trouble and be for ever teased by a
couple of squalling brats! Would that I had broken my neck ere I ever
came to this place, to have bad food, worse drink, and get no sleep at
night! Here's a life to lead! Forsooth I came as a wife, and not as a
servant; but I must find some means of getting rid of these creatures,
or it will cost me my life: better to blush once than to grow pale a
hundred times; so I've done with them, for I am resolved to send them
away, or to leave the house myself for ever."

The poor husband, who had some affection for this woman, said to her,
"Softly, wife! Don't be angry, for sugar is dear; and to-morrow
morning, before the cock crows, I will remove this annoyance in order
to please you." So the next morning, ere the Dawn had hung out the red
counterpane at the window of the East to air it, Jannuccio took the
children, one by each hand, and with a good basketful of things to eat
upon his arm, he led them to a wood, where an army of poplars and
beech-trees were holding the shades besieged. Then Jannuccio said, "My
little children, stay here in this wood, and eat and drink merrily; but
if you want anything, follow this line of ashes which I have been
strewing as we came along; this will be a clue to lead you out of the
labyrinth and bring you straight home." Then giving them both a kiss,
he returned weeping to his house.

But at the hour when all creatures, summoned by the constables of
Night, pay to Nature the tax of needful repose, the two children began
to feel afraid at remaining in that lonesome place, where the waters of
a river, which was thrashing the impertinent stones for obstructing its
course, would have frightened even a hero. So they went slowly along
the path of ashes, and it was already midnight ere they reached their
home. When Pascozza, their stepmother, saw the children, she acted not
like a woman, but a perfect fury; crying aloud, wringing her hands,
stamping with her feet, snorting like a frightened horse, and
exclaiming, "What fine piece of work is this? Is there no way of
ridding the house of these creatures? Is it possible, husband, that you
are determined to keep them here to plague my very life out? Go, take
them out of my sight! I'll not wait for the crowing of cocks and the
cackling of hens; or else be assured that to-morrow morning I'll go off
to my parents' house, for you do not deserve me. I have not brought you
so many fine things, only to be made the slave of children who are not
my own."

Poor Jannuccio, who saw that matters were growing rather too warm,
immediately took the little ones and returned to the wood; where giving
the children another basketful of food, he said to them, "You see, my
dears, how this wife of mine--who is come to my house to be your ruin
and a nail in my heart--hates you; therefore remain in this wood, where
the trees, more compassionate, will give you shelter from the sun;
where the river, more charitable, will give you drink without poison;
and the earth, more kind, will give you a pillow of grass without
danger. And when you want food, follow this little path of bran which I
have made for you in a straight line, and you can come and seek what
you require." So saying, he turned away his face, not to let himself be
seen to weep and dishearten the poor little creatures.

When Nennillo and Nennella had eaten all that was in the basket, they
wanted to return home; but alas! a jackass--the son of ill-luck--had
eaten up all the bran that was strewn upon the ground; so they lost
their way, and wandered about forlorn in the wood for several days,
feeding on acorns and chestnuts which they found fallen on the ground.
But as Heaven always extends its arm over the innocent, there came by
chance a Prince to hunt in that wood. Then Nennillo, hearing the baying
of the hounds, was so frightened that he crept into a hollow tree; and
Nennella set off running at full speed, and ran until she came out of
the wood, and found herself on the seashore. Now it happened that some
pirates, who had landed there to get fuel, saw Nennella and carried her
off; and their captain took her home with him where he and his wife,
having just lost a little girl, took her as their daughter.

Meantime Nennillo, who had hidden himself in the tree, was surrounded
by the dogs, which made such a furious barking that the Prince sent to
find out the cause; and when he discovered the pretty little boy, who
was so young that he could not tell who were his father and mother, he
ordered one of the huntsmen to set him upon his saddle and take him to
the royal palace. Then he had him brought up with great care, and
instructed in various arts, and among others, he had him taught that of
a carver; so that, before three or four years had passed, Nennillo
became so expert in his art that he could carve a joint to a hair.

Now about this time it was discovered that the captain of the ship who
had taken Nennella to his house was a sea-robber, and the people wished
to take him prisoner; but getting timely notice from the clerks in the
law-courts, who were his friends, and whom he kept in his pay, he fled
with all his family. It was decreed, however, perhaps by the judgment
of Heaven, that he who had committed his crimes upon the sea, upon the
sea should suffer the punishment of them; for having embarked in a
small boat, no sooner was he upon the open sea than there came such a
storm of wind and tumult of the waves, that the boat was upset and all
were drowned--all except Nennella, who having had no share in the
corsair's robberies, like his wife and children, escaped the danger;
for just then a large enchanted fish, which was swimming about the
boat, opened its huge throat and swallowed her down.

The little girl now thought to herself that her days were surely at an
end, when suddenly she found a thing to amaze her inside the
fish,--beautiful fields and fine gardens, and a splendid mansion, with
all that heart could desire, in which she lived like a Princess. Then
she was carried quickly by the fish to a rock, where it chanced that
the Prince had come to escape the burning heat of a summer, and to
enjoy the cool sea-breezes. And whilst a great banquet was preparing,
Nennillo had stepped out upon a balcony of the palace on the rock to
sharpen some knives, priding himself greatly on acquiring honour from
his office. When Nennella saw him through the fish's throat, she cried
aloud,

     "Brother, brother, your task is done,
     The tables are laid out every one;
     But here in the fish I must sit and sigh,
     O brother, without you I soon shall die."

Nennillo at first paid no attention to the voice, but the Prince, who
was standing on another balcony and had also heard it, turned in the
direction whence the sound came, and saw the fish. And when he again
heard the same words, he was beside himself with amazement, and ordered
a number of servants to try whether by any means they could ensnare the
fish and draw it to land. At last, hearing the words "Brother,
brother!" continually repeated, he asked all his servants, one by one,
whether any of them had lost a sister. And Nennillo replied, that he
recollected, as a dream, having had a sister when the Prince found him
in the wood, but that he had never since heard any tidings of her. Then
the Prince told him to go nearer to the fish, and see what was the
matter, for perhaps this adventure might concern him. As soon as
Nennillo approached the fish, it raised up its head upon the rock, and
opening its throat six palms wide, Nennella stepped out, so beautiful
that she looked just like a nymph in some interlude, come forth from
that animal at the incantation of a magician. And when the Prince asked
her how it had all happened, she told him a part of her sad story, and
the hatred of their stepmother; but not being able to recollect the
name of their father nor of their home, the Prince caused a
proclamation to be issued, commanding that whoever had lost two
children, named Nennillo and Nennella, in a wood, should come to the
royal palace, and he would there receive joyful news of them.

Jannuccio, who had all this time passed a sad and disconsolate life,
believing that his children had been devoured by wolves, now hastened
with the greatest joy to seek the Prince, and told him that he had lost
the children. And when he had related the story, how he had been
compelled to take them to the wood, the Prince gave him a good
scolding, calling him a blockhead for allowing a woman to put her heel
upon his neck till he was brought to send away two such jewels as his
children. But after he had broken Jannuccio's head with these words, he
applied to it the plaster of consolation, showing him the children,
whom the father embraced and kissed for half an hour without being
satisfied. Then the Prince made him pull off his jacket, and had him
dressed like a lord; and sending for Jannuccio's wife, he showed her
those two golden pippins, asked her what that person would deserve who
should do them any harm, and even endanger their lives. And she
replied, "For my part, I would put her into a closed cask, and send her
rolling down a mountain."

"So it shall be done!" said the Prince. "The goat has butted at
herself. Quick now! you have passed the sentence, and you must suffer
it, for having borne these beautiful stepchildren such malice." So he
gave orders that the sentence should be instantly executed. Then
choosing a very rich lord among his vassals, he gave him Nennella to
wife, and the daughter of another great lord to Nennillo; allowing them
enough to live upon, with their father, so that they wanted for nothing
in the world. But the stepmother, shut into the cask and shut out from
life, kept on crying through the bunghole as long as she had breath--

     "To him who mischief seeks, shall mischief fall;
     There comes an hour that recompenses all."



XXXI

THE THREE CITRONS

Well was it in truth said by the wise man, "Do not say all you know,
nor do all you are able"; for both one and the other bring unknown
danger and unforeseen ruin; as you shall hear of a certain slave (be it
spoken with all reverence for my lady the Princess), who, after doing
all the injury in her power to a poor girl, came off so badly in the
court, that she was the judge of her own crime, and sentenced herself
to the punishment she deserved.

The King of Long-Tower had once a son, who was the apple of his eye,
and on whom he had built all his hopes; and he longed impatiently for
the time when he should find some good match for him. But the Prince
was so averse to marriage and so obstinate that, whenever a wife was
talked of, he shook his head and wished himself a hundred miles off; so
that the poor King, finding his son stubborn and perverse, and
foreseeing that his race would come to an end, was more vexed and
melancholy, cast down and out of spirits, than a merchant whose
correspondent has become bankrupt, or a peasant whose ass has died.
Neither could the tears of his father move the Prince, nor the
entreaties of the courtiers soften him, nor the counsel of wise men
make him change his mind; in vain they set before his eyes the wishes
of his father, the wants of the people, and his own interest,
representing to him that he was the full-stop in the line of the royal
race; for with the obstinacy of Carella and the stubbornness of an old
mule with a skin four fingers thick, he had planted his foot
resolutely, stopped his ears, and closed his heart against all
assaults. But as frequently more comes to pass in an hour than in a
hundred years, and no one can say, Stop here or go there, it happened
that one day, when all were at table, and the Prince was cutting a
piece of new-made cheese, whilst listening to the chit-chat that was
going on, he accidentally cut his finger; and two drops of blood,
falling upon the cheese, made such a beautiful mixture of colours
that--either it was a punishment inflicted by Love, or the will of
Heaven to console the poor father--the whim seized the Prince to find a
woman exactly as white and red as that cheese tinged with blood. Then
he said to his father, "Sir, unless I have a wife as white and red as
this cheese, it is all over with me; so now resolve, if you wish to see
me alive and well, to give me all I require to go through the world in
search of a beauty exactly like this cheese, or else I shall end my
life and die by inches."

When the King heard this mad resolution, he thought the house was
falling about his ears; his colour came and went, but as soon as he
recovered himself and could speak, he said, "My son, the life of my
soul, the core of my heart, the prop of my old age, what mad-brained
fancy has made you take leave of your senses? Have you lost your wits?
You want either all or nothing: first you wish not to marry, on purpose
to deprive me of an heir, and now you are impatient to drive me out of
the world. Whither, O whither would you go wandering about, wasting
your life? And why leave your house, your hearth, your home? You know
not what toils and peril he brings on himself who goes rambling and
roving. Let this whim pass, my son; be sensible, and do not wish to see
my life worn out, this house fall to the ground, my household go to
ruin."

But these and other words went in at one ear and out at the other, and
were all cast upon the sea; and the poor King, seeing that his son was
as immovable as a rook upon a belfry, gave him a handful of dollars and
two or three servants; and bidding him farewell, he felt as if his soul
was torn out of his body. Then weeping bitterly, he went to a balcony,
and followed his son with his eyes until he was lost to sight.

The Prince departed, leaving his unhappy father to his grief, and
hastened on his way through fields and woods, over mountain and valley,
hill and plain, visiting various countries, and mixing with various
peoples, and always with his eyes wide awake to see whether he could
find the object of his desire. At the end of several months he arrived
at the coast of France, where, leaving his servants at a hospital with
sore feet, he embarked alone in a Genoese boat, and set out towards the
Straits of Gibraltar.  There he took a larger vessel and sailed for the
Indies, seeking everywhere, from kingdom to kingdom, from province to
province, from country to country, from street to street, from house to
house, in every hole and corner, whether he could find the original
likeness of that beautiful image which he had pictured to his heart.
And he wandered about and about until at length he came to the Island
of the Ogresses, where he cast anchor and landed. There he found an
old, old woman, withered and shrivelled up, and with a hideous face, to
whom he related the reason that had brought him to the country. The old
woman was beside herself with amazement when she heard the strange whim
and the fancy of the Prince, and the toils and perils he had gone
through to satisfy himself; then she said to him, "Hasten away, my son!
for if my three daughters meet you I would not give a farthing for your
life; half-alive and half-roasted, a frying-pan would be your bier and
a belly your grave. But away with you as fast as a hare, and you will
not go far before you find what you are seeking!"

When the Prince heard this, frightened, terrified, and aghast, he set
off running at full speed, and ran till he came to another country,
where he again met an old woman, more ugly even than the first, to whom
he told all his story. Then the old woman said to him in like manner,
"Away with you! unless you wish to serve as a breakfast to the little
ogresses my daughters; but go straight on, and you will soon find what
you want."

The Prince, hearing this, set off running as fast as a dog with a
kettle at its tail; and he went on and on, until he met another old
woman, who was sitting upon a wheel, with a basket full of little pies
and sweetmeats on her arm, and feeding a number of jackasses, which
thereupon began leaping about on the bank of a river and kicking at
some poor swans. When the Prince came up to the old woman, after making
a hundred salaams, he related to her the story of his wanderings;
whereupon the old woman, comforting him with kind words, gave him such
a good breakfast that he licked his fingers after it. And when he had
done eating she gave him three citrons, which seemed to be just fresh
gathered from the tree; and she gave him also a beautiful knife,
saying, "You are now free to return to Italy, for your labour is ended,
and you have what you were seeking. Go your way, therefore, and when
you are near your own kingdom stop at the first fountain you come to
and cut a citron. Then a fairy will come forth from it, and will say to
you, 'Give me to drink.' Mind and be ready with the water or she will
vanish like quicksilver. But if you are not quick enough with the
second fairy, have your eyes open and be watchful that the third does
not escape you, giving her quickly to drink, and you shall have a wife
after your own heart."

The Prince, overjoyed, kissed the old woman's hairy hand a hundred
times, which seemed just like a hedgehog's back. Then taking his leave
he left that country, and coming to the seashore sailed for the Pillars
of Hercules, and arrived at our Sea, and after a thousand storms and
perils, he entered port a day's distance from his own kingdom. There he
came to a most beautiful grove, where the Shades formed a palace for
the Meadows, to prevent their being seen by the sun; and dismounting at
a fountain, which, with a crystal tongue, was inviting the people to
refresh their lips, he seated himself on a Syrian carpet formed by the
plants and flowers. Then he drew his knife from the sheath and began to
cut the first citron, when lo! there appeared like a flash of lightning
a most beautiful maiden, white as milk and red as a strawberry, who
said, "Give me to drink!" The Prince was so amazed, bewildered, and
captivated with the beauty of the fairy that he did not give her the
water quick enough, so she appeared and vanished at one and the same
moment. Whether this was a rap on the Prince's head, let any one judge
who, after longing for a thing, gets it into his hands and instantly
loses it again.

Then the Prince cut the second citron, and the same thing happened
again; and this was a second blow he got on his pate; so making two
little fountains of his eyes, he wept, face to face, tear for tear,
drop for drop, with the fountain, and sighing he exclaimed, "Good
heavens, how is it that I am so unfortunate? Twice I have let her
escape, as if my hands were tied; and here I sit like a rock, when I
ought to run like a greyhound. Faith indeed I have made a fine hand of
it! But courage, man! there is still another, and three is the lucky
number; either this knife shall give me the fay, or it shall take my
life away." So saying he cut the third citron, and forth came the third
fairy, who said like the others, "Give me to drink." Then the Prince
instantly handed her the water; and behold there stood before him a
delicate maiden, white as a junket with red streaks,--a thing never
before seen in the world, with a beauty beyond compare, a fairness
beyond the beyonds, a grace more than the most. On that hair Jove had
showered down gold, of which Love made his shafts to pierce all hearts;
that face the god of Love had tinged with red, that some innocent soul
should be hung on the gallows of desire; at those eyes the sun had
lighted two fireworks, to set fire to the rockets of sighs in the
breast of the beholder; to the roses on those lips Venus had given
their colour, to wound a thousand enamoured hearts with their thorns.
In a word, she was so beautiful from head to foot, that a more
exquisite creature was never seen. The Prince knew not what had
happened to him, and stood lost in amazement, gazing on such a
beautiful offspring of a citron; and he said to himself, "Are you
asleep or awake, Ciommetiello? Are your eyes bewitched, or are you
blind? What fair white creature is this come forth from a yellow rind?
What sweet fruit, from the sour juice of a citron? What lovely maiden
sprung from a citron-pip?"

At length, seeing that it was all true and no dream, he embraced the
fairy, giving her a hundred and a hundred kisses; and after a thousand
tender words had passed between them--words which, as a setting, had an
accompaniment of sugared kisses--the Prince said, "My soul, I cannot
take you to my father's kingdom without handsome raiment worthy of so
beautiful a person, and an attendance befitting a Queen; therefore
climb up into this oak-tree, where Nature seems purposely to have made
for us a hiding-place in the form of a little room, and here await my
return; for I will come back on wings, before a tear can be dry, with
dresses and servants, and carry you off to my kingdom." So saying,
after the usual ceremonies, he departed.

Now a black slave, who was sent by her mistress with a pitcher to fetch
water, came to the well, and seeing by chance the reflection of the
fairy in the water, she thought it was herself, and exclaimed in
amazement, "Poor Lucia, what do I see? Me so pretty and fair, and
mistress send me here. No, me will no longer bear." So saying she broke
the pitcher and returned home; and when her mistress asked her, "Why
have you done this mischief?" she replied, "Me go to the well alone,
pitcher break upon a stone." Her mistress swallowed this idle story,
and the next day she gave her a pretty little cask, telling her to go
and fill it with water. So the slave returned to the fountain, and
seeing again the beautiful image reflected in the water, she said with
a deep sigh, "Me no ugly slave, me no broad-foot goose, but pretty and
fine as mistress mine, and me not go to the fountain!" So saying, smash
again! she broke the cask into seventy pieces, and returned grumbling
home, and said to her mistress, "Ass come past, tub fell down at the
well, and all was broken in pieces." The poor mistress, on hearing
this, could contain herself no longer, and seizing a broomstick she
beat the slave so soundly that she felt it for many days; then giving
her a leather bag, she said, "Run, break your neck, you wretched slave,
you grasshopper-legs, you black beetle! Run and fetch me this bag full
of water, or else I'll hang you like a dog, and give you a good
thrashing."

Away ran the slave heels over head, for she had seen the flash and
dreaded the thunder; and while she was filling the leather bag, she
turned to look again at the beautiful image, and said, "Me fool to
fetch water! better live by one's wits; such a pretty girl indeed to
serve a bad mistress!" So saying, she took a large pin which she wore
in her hair, and began to pick holes in the leather bag, which looked
like an open place in a garden with the rose of a watering-pot making a
hundred little fountains. When the fairy saw this she laughed outright;
and the slave hearing her, turned and espied her hiding-place up in the
tree; whereat she said to herself, "O ho! you make me be beaten? but
never mind!" Then she said to her, "What you doing up there, pretty
lass?" And the fairy, who was the very mother of courtesy, told her all
she knew, and all that had passed with the Prince, whom she was
expecting from hour to hour and from moment to moment, with fine
dresses and servants, to take her with him to his father's kingdom
where they would live happy together.

When the slave, who was full of spite, heard this, she thought to
herself that she would get this prize into her own hands; so she
answered the fairy, "You expect your husband,--me come up and comb your
locks, and make you more smart." And the fairy said, "Ay, welcome as
the first of May!" So the slave climbed up the tree, and the fairy held
out her white hand to her, which looked in the black paws of the slave
like a crystal mirror in a frame of ebony. But no sooner did the slave
begin to comb the fairy's locks, than she suddenly stuck a hairpin into
her head. Then the fairy, feeling herself pricked, cried out, "Dove,
dove!" and instantly she became a dove and flew away; whereupon the
slave stripped herself, and making a bundle of all the rags that she
had worn, she threw them a mile away; and there she sat, up in the
tree, looking like a statue of jet in a house of emerald.

In a short time the Prince returned with a great cavalcade, and finding
a cask of caviar where he had left a pan of milk, he stood for awhile
beside himself with amazement. At length he said, "Who has made this
great blot of ink on the fine paper upon which I thought to write the
brightest days of my life? Who has hung with mourning this newly
white-washed house, where I thought to spend a happy life? How comes it
that I find this touchstone, where I left a mine of silver, that was to
make me rich and happy?" But the crafty slave, observing the Prince's
amazement, said, "Do not wonder, my Prince; for me turned by a wicked
spell from a white lily to a black coal."

The poor Prince, seeing that there was no help for the mischief,
drooped his head and swallowed this pill; and bidding the slave come
down from the tree, he ordered her to be clothed from head to foot in
new dresses. Then sad and sorrowful, cast-down and woe-begone, he took
his way back with the slave to his own country, where the King and
Queen, who had gone out six miles to meet them, received them with the
same pleasure as a prisoner feels at the announcement of a sentence of
hanging, seeing the fine choice their foolish son had made, who after
travelling about so long to find a white dove had brought home at last
a black crow. However, as they could do no less, they gave up the crown
to their children, and placed the golden tripod upon that face of coal.

Now whilst they were preparing splendid feasts and banquets, and the
cooks were busy plucking geese, killing little pigs, flaying kids,
basting the roast meat, skimming pots, mincing meat for dumplings,
larding capons, and preparing a thousand other delicacies, a beautiful
dove came flying to the kitchen window, and said,

     "O cook of the kitchen, tell me, I pray,
     What the King and the slave are doing to-day."

The cook at first paid little heed to the dove; but when she returned a
second and a third time, and repeated the same words, he ran to the
dining-hall to tell the marvellous thing. But no sooner did the lady
hear this music than she gave orders for the dove to be instantly
caught and made into a hash. So the cook went, and he managed to catch
the dove, and did all that the slave had commanded. And having scalded
the bird in order to pluck it, he threw the water with the feathers out
from a balcony on to a garden-bed, on which, before three days had
passed, there sprang up a beautiful citron-tree, which quickly grew to
its full size.

Now it happened that the King, going by chance to a window that looked
upon the garden, saw the tree, which he had never observed before; and
calling the cook, he asked him when and by whom it had been planted. No
sooner had he heard all the particulars from Master Pot-ladle, than he
began to suspect how matters stood. So he gave orders, under pain of
death, that the tree should not be touched, but that it should be
tended with the greatest care.

At the end of a few days three most beautiful citrons appeared, similar
to those which the ogress had given Ciommetiello. And when they were
grown larger, he plucked them; and shutting himself up in a chamber,
with a large basin of water and the knife, which he always carried at
his side, he began to cut the citrons. Then it all fell out with the
first and second fairy just as it had done before; but when at last he
cut the third citron, and gave the fairy who came forth from it to
drink, behold, there stood before him the self-same maiden whom he had
left up in the tree, and who told him all the mischief that the slave
had done.

Who now can tell the least part of the delight the King felt at this
good turn of fortune? Who can describe the shouting and leaping for joy
that there was? For the King was swimming in a sea of delight, and was
wafted to Heaven on a tide of rapture. Then he embraced the fairy, and
ordered her to be handsomely dressed from head to foot; and taking her
by the hand he led her into the middle of the hall, where all the
courtiers and great folks of the city were met to celebrate the feast.
Then the King called on them one by one, and said, "Tell me, what
punishment would that person deserve who should do any harm to this
beautiful lady!" And one replied that such a person would deserve a
hempen collar; another, a breakfast of stones; a third, a good beating;
a fourth, a draught of poison; a fifth, a millstone for a brooch--in
short, one said this thing and another that. At last he called on the
black Queen, and putting the same question, she replied, "Such a person
would deserve to be burned, and that her ashes should be thrown from
the roof of the castle."

When the King heard this, he said to her, "You have struck your own
foot with the axe, you have made your own fetters, you have sharpened
the knife and mixed the poison; for no one has done this lady so much
harm as yourself, you good-for-nothing creature! Know you that this is
the beautiful maiden whom you wounded with the hairpin? Know you that
this is the pretty dove which you ordered to be killed and cooked in a
stewpan? What say you now? It is all your own doing; and one who does
ill may expect ill in return." So saying, he ordered the slave to be
seized and cast alive on to a large burning pile of wood; and her ashes
were thrown from the top of the castle to all the winds of Heaven,
verifying the truth of the saying that--

     "He who sows thorns should not go barefoot."



XXXII

CONCLUSION

All sat listening to Ciommetella's last story. Some praised the skill
with which she had told it, while others murmured at her indiscretion,
saying that, in the presence of the Princess, she ought not to have
exposed to blame the ill-deeds of another slave, and run the risk of
stopping the game. But Lucia herself sat upon thorns, and kept turning
and twisting herself about all the time the story was being told;
insomuch that the restlessness of her body betrayed the storm that was
in her heart, at seeing in the tale of another slave the exact image of
her own deceit. Gladly would she have dismissed the whole company, but
that, owing to the desire which the doll had given her to hear stories,
she could not restrain her passion for them. And, partly also not to
give Taddeo cause for suspicion, she swallowed this bitter pill,
intending to take a good revenge in proper time and place. But Taddeo,
who had grown quite fond of the amusement, made a sign to Zoza to
relate her story; and, after making her curtsey, she began--

"Truth, my Lord Prince, has always been the mother of hatred, and I
would not wish, therefore, by obeying your commands, to offend any one
of those about me. But as I am not accustomed to weave fictions or to
invent stories, I am constrained, both by nature and habit, to speak
the truth; and, although the proverb says, Tell truth and fear nothing,
yet knowing well that truth is not welcome in the presence of princes,
I tremble lest I say anything that may offend you."

"Say all you wish," replied Taddeo, "for nothing but what is sweet can
come from those pretty lips."

These words were stabs to the heart of the Slave, as all would have
seen plainly if black faces were, as white ones, the book of the soul.
And she would have given a finger of her hand to have been rid of these
stories, for all before her eyes had grown blacker even than her face.
She feared that the last story was only the fore-runner of mischief to
follow; and from a cloudy morning she foretold a bad day. But Zoza,
meanwhile, began to enchant all around her with the sweetness of her
words, relating her sorrows from first to last, and beginning with her
natural melancholy, the unhappy augury of all she had to suffer. Then
she went on to tell of the old woman's curse, her painful wanderings,
her arrival at the fountain, her bitter weeping, and the treacherous
sleep which had been the cause of her ruin.

The Slave, hearing Zoza tell the story in all its breadth and length,
and seeing the boat go out of its course, exclaimed, "Be quiet and hold
your tongue! or I will not answer for the consequences." But Taddeo,
who had discovered how matters stood, could no longer contain himself;
so, stripping off the mask and throwing the saddle on the ground, he
exclaimed, "Let her tell her story to the end, and have done with this
nonsense. I have been made a fool of for long enough, and, if what I
suspect is true, it were better that you had never been born." Then he
commanded Zoza to continue her story in spite of his wife; and Zoza,
who only waited for the sign, went on to tell how the Slave had found
the pitcher and had treacherously robbed her of her good fortune. And,
thereupon, she fell to weeping in such a manner, that every person
present was affected at the sight.

Taddeo, who, from Zoza's tears and the Slave's silence, discerned the
truth of the matter, gave Lucia a rare scolding, and made her confess
her treachery with her own lips. Then he gave instant orders that she
should be buried alive up to her neck, that she might die a more
painful death. And, embracing Zoza, he caused her to be treated with
all honour as his Princess and wife, sending to invite the King of
Wood-Valley to come to the feast.

With these fresh nuptials terminated the greatness of the Slave and the
amusement of these stories. And much good may they do you, and promote
your health! And may you lay them down as unwillingly as I do, taking
my leave with regret at my heels and a good spoonful of honey in my
mouth.





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that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



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