STORY OF THE GHUL.
Of the First Day
Antony of Maregliano, being a clownish prattler, is expelled by his mother. He taketh service with a ghul, and as he desireth to visit his house, is regaled with a sound bastinado. Quarrelling with a tavern-keeper, at last he is presented with a club, which punisheth his ignorance, and maketh the tavern-keeper pay the penance for his trickery: and thus he enricheth himself and family.
Those who said that fortune is blind spake sooth (and knew more than Master Lanza, who truly passed some of these matters), for she raiseth some folk to greatest height who should be kicked out of a field of beans, and throweth to the ground folk who are the best and noblest of men, as I will now relate.
It is said that once upon a time there lived in the country of Maregliano a good woman, Masella highs, who had, besides six virgin daughters, a son so clownish and idle that he was not worth even a snow game, and no day passed but that she said to him, 'Why do you stay at home, accursed bread-eater? Disappear, lump of laziness dirty Maccabeus, depriver of sleep, carrier of evil news, chesnut-boiler, thou who must have been exchanged for me in the cradle, where instead of a pretty, dearling child was put a pig lasagne-eater.' And whilst Masella thus apostrophised him, he kept whistling, showing that there was no hope that Antony (thus was the son hight) would turn his mind to any good. And one day of the days it happened that his mother washed his head without soap, and hending a stick in hand, took measure of his doublet. Antony, who when least expecting it found himself well warmed, as soon as he could escape from her hands, took to his heels, and walked till the twenty-four hours had elapsed and the stars began to peep out, at which time he reached the foot of a mountain so high that its head touched the clouds, where, in an avenue of poplar-trees, at the entrance of a grotto built of pumice-stone, was sitting a ghul. O mother mine, how hideous was he! His head was larger than an Indian vegetable-marrow, his forehead full of bumps, his eyebrows united, his eyes crooked, his nose flat, with nostrils like a forge, his mouth like an oven, from which protruded two tusks like unto a boar's; a hairy breast had he, and arms like reels; and bandy-legged was he, and flat-footed like a goose; briefly he was an hideous monster, frightful to behold, who would have made a Roland smile, and would have frightened a Scannarebecco; but Antony, who cared not for ugliness or aught else, nodding his head slightly to him, said, 'Good-day, master; what mayest thou be doing? How cost thou do? Dost thou walls anything? How far is it from here to the place whereto I am bound?' The ghul, hearing such foolish queries addressed to him, burst out a-laughing, and because he was pleased with that humourous beast, said to him, 'Wilt thou be my servant?' and Antony rejoined, 'And how much wilt thou give me a month?' and the ghul answered, 'Mind and serve me honourably, and we will not dispute about the wage.' Thus, having concluded this accord, Antony remained to serve the ghul. With him was abundance of food, and of work very little, so much so that in four days Antony found himself in such good condition that he became as a Turk for stoutness, an ox for roundness, courageous as a game-cock, red like a lobster, green as garlick, and flat like a whale. But nearly two years had gone by when his pleasant life began to weary him, and he became sad and sore at heart, thinking of his home, and for stress of longing had nearly come to his first state. The ghul, who could see into his innermost thoughts by a look at his nose and a move of his back parts, called him to his presence, and said to him, 'Antony mine, I know that thou art sickening with a great longing and desire to behold once more shine own flesh; and because I love thee as mine own entrails, I will permit thee to fare forth and take thy pleasure; and I will give thee this ass, which will spare thee from the fatigue of the journey: but be very careful never to say to it, "Arse shit!' or thou shalt repent it, by my ancestor's soul.'
Antony took the ass, without even saying good-evening, and vaulting into the saddle, put it to the trot; and he had not gone yet a hundred paces when, dismounting, be began to cry to the ass, 'Arse shit!' and hardly had he opened his mouth to say so, when the beast began to ease itself, and pearls came out of it, and rubies, and emeralds, and sapphires, and diamonds, each of the size of a walnut. Antony watched all this with mouth wide open, and a feeling of great joy at the rich evacuation of the ass; and he took down the saddle-bags, and filled them with the jewels, and mounting again, continued faring on till he arrived at a tavern, and there dismounting, the first thing he said to the innkeeper was, 'Make fast this ass to the manger, and give it good food; but be thou careful not to say to it, "Arse shit!" as thou shalt repent so doing; and also put these things in a safe place for me.' The innkeeper, who was not wanting in cunning, hearing these words, and beholding the jewels which glimmered and glittered in the saddle-bags, was overcome by curiosity, and longed to know the meaning of the words forbidden him by Antony: therefore giving to Antony a plentiful supper and wines to drink, awaited until he saw him overtaken by sleep and snoring loudly, when he made his way to the stable, and said to the ass, 'Arse shit !' At the sound of those words the ass eased itself again of gold and jewels. The innkeeper, beholding this evacuation, bethought himself of exchanging the ass and of befooling Antony, thinking that he could easily blind and deceive him, and make him take a glow-worm for a lanthorn, believing him a simpleton who had come to his hand.
Therefore as soon as Antony arose, when morning dawned, and Dame Aurora appeared at the east window, all rose hued, to empty the night-vase of her old man, stretching, himself and talking the while, Antony at last called the innkeeper, and said to him, 'Come here, comrade, short accounts and long friendship! friends are we, and our purse let us combat: give me my bill, and let me pay.' And this was done, so much for bread, so much for wine, so much for soup, and so much for meat, for stabling five, and ten for the bed, and fifteen for thanks: he paid his account, and taking the ass with a load of pumice-stone in the saddlebags instead of jewels, fared on towards his village, and before entering his house he began crying, 'Run, mother, run; we are rich: display towels and spread bed-linen, and thou wilt behold treasures.' The mother, with great joy, opening a large coffer where she held all her daughters' linen, brought out all the bed-linen, and covered the floor with it. Antony drew the ass upon it, and began to cry out, 'Arse shit!' but he could say, 'Arse shit!' as much as he liked: the ass took no notice of the words, no more than if they had been sounds of music: moreover he returned three or four times to repeat the words, but all was thrown to the winds. Thinking the beast obstinate, he took a strong stick, and began belabouring it therewith, until the poor animal let go a run of yellowish matter upon the white bed-linen. The unhappy Masella, beholding this evacuation of the ass, an scenting enough stink to infect all the house when she expected to enrich her poverty, was wroth with exceeding wrath, and hending a staff, let Antony feel its weight on his shoulders, without awaiting to look at the pumice stone, for which warm reception he again took to his heels, and the ghul beheld him returning to him faster than he had seen him depart. But the ghul already knew what had happened to him, because he was a sorcerer, and gave him a good scolding because he had let himself be tricked by the innkeeper, calling him Ascadeo, foolish, simpleton, deformed, silly, brainless, that for an ass full of treasures he had taken a vulgar beast full of dung. Antony was obliged to swallow in silence all these pills, and swore to himself that nevermore, no never, would he allow any man living to laugh at him. A year passed by, and the same longing came in his heart as heretofore, and he became once more desirous to behold his kith and kin. The ghul, who was hideous of favour but handsome of heart, gave him permission to go, and presented him with a fine napkin, saying 'Take this to thy mother, and take care not to be a simpleton' as thou wert with the ass; and till thou comest to thy house, mind and do not say, "Open and shut, thou napkin,,' because maybe some great mishap will befall thee, and all the loss will be thine; now go, and good speed, and come back soon': and thus Antony took his leave. But having fared not very far from the cave, he at once put the napkin on the ground, and said, 'Open and shut, thou napkin,' whereupon in opening the napkin displayed many precious things which were marvellous to behold. As Antony saw them, he said at once, 'Shut, napkin,' and everything being shut inside it, he fared on to the same tavern, where on entering he said to the innkeeper, 'Put away for me in a safe place this napkin, and be careful not to say, "Open and shut, thou napkin."' The astute host, who knew a thing or two, answered, 'Let me do it for thee'; and having given him a plenteous repast and copious draughts of wine, watched till he slept soundly, and then, taking the napkin, said, 'Open thou, O napkin,' and the napkin opened, and showed to sight all kinds of precious things which were marvellous to behold. And having found another napkin similar to that one, he put it in its place.
When Antony awoke in the morning, he rose, and thanked the host, and went his way, and after a time arrived at his mother's house, and as soon as he saw her exclaimed, 'Now indeed, O my mother, will we bid adieu to our beggarly lot; now in very sooth shall we have the wherewithal to remedy all our wants'; and thus saying, he laid the napkin upon the ground, and cried, 'Open thou, O napkin :' but he could cry out as much as he liked, all was time lost. At last, perceiving that it was useless, turning to his mother, he said, 'Well, I wot that again have I been befooled by that inkeeper: but never mind. I and he, we are two; better for him not to have done it: far better if he had gone under a cart-wheel. May I lose the best house-furniture if, when I pass that way, I do not smash to atoms all his belongings in payment for the jewels from the ass and the napkin he hath stolen.' The mother, hearing this new silliness, became greatly enraged, and said to him, 'Decamp, accursed son! break thy neck, take thyself off. I cannot bear the sight of thee. Begone at once, and think of this house just as if it were fire. I shake the dust off my clothing of thee, and I will think as if I never had given birth to thee.'
The ill-treated Antony, seeing the lightning-flash, would not await the thunder, and, like a thief, lowering his head and lifting his heels, he wended his way towards the abode of the ghul, who, on seeing him coming quite quietly, gave him another good dressing, saying, 'I know not what holds me that I do not kill thee, ass, beast, blister farting mouth, rotten throat, gaol's trumpet, that of all things thou publishest the banns, and vomitest all that is in thy body, and canst not hold a bean in thy mouth. If thou hadst held thy tongue at the tavern, it would not have happened; but having a tongue like the sail of a windmill, thou hast been grinding the happiness which came to thee by my hands.' The ill-fated Antony, putting his tail between his legs, swallowed all this music, and lived quietly on another three years in the ghul's service, thinking about his house as much as he thought of being an earl; but after all this time came to him again the fever of longing and desire to wend home, and he asked leave to go from his master, who desiring to rid himself of this lack-wit, gave his consent and presented him with a finely chiselled mace, and said to him:'Take this mace and keep it in remembrance of me, but be careful not to say, "Lift thyself mace," or "Lie down mace", for I want no part with thee.' Antony, taking the gift, answered, 'Thou mayest rest in peace. I have grown the wisdom-tooth, and I know full well how many pair make three oxen; I am no longer a child: who desireth to cheat Antony must kiss his elbow.' To this the ghul rejoined, 'The work praiseth the worker; words are females, and deeds are males: we will wait and see; thou hast heard me more than a deaf man, and man forewarned is man forearmed.' And whilst his master continued thus to speak, Antony sneaked off towards his dwelling-place; but he had not gone half a mile, when he said, 'Lift thyself, mace.' But far better had he not spoken those words. At once the mace uplifted, and belaboured Antony's shoulders with a good will, so much so that the blows rained faster than hailstone in the open sky. The unlucky man, seeing himself so much ill-treated, said, 'Lie thee down, O mace,' and the mace ceased to punish him: and therefore, having learnt a lesson at his own expense, he said to himself, 'And lame may he be who tries to escape! I will not leave this mace a single moment: yet he is not abed who is to have a bad evening': and so saying, he arrived at the usual tavern, where he met with the greatest of welcomes, because they knew what sap could be drawn from the root.
As soon as he entered, Antony said to the host, 'Put away in a safe place this mace; and be thou careful not to say to it, "Lift thyself, mace," lest thou suffer a mishap: understand well what I tell thee, and afterwards do not blame Antony for what may befall thee, as I protest and advise thee beforehand.' The innkeeper, delighted at this third venture, sent him a goodly supper and the best of vintage; and as soon as he beheld him asleep he took up the mace, and calling his wife to this new treat, said, 'Lift thyself, O mace,' and the mace did at once devoir on the man and his wife's shoulders, down here and down there, piff-paff with lightning speed; and finding themselves in a direful plight, they ran, and the mace after them thumping right and left, crying out with loud cries for Antony, who on awaking beheld that the macaroni had tumbled into the cheese, and the cabbages into the lard: therefore he said to them, 'There is no help for it but that ye both die under its blows unless ye return to me what ye stole' The innkeeper, who had had enough, cried, 'Take all I have, but deliver me from this evil'; and moreover, to assure Antony of his good will, he sent for all that which he had stolen from him. As soon as Antony had it between his hands, he said, 'Lie thee down, O mace,' and the mace lay still: and he, taking his ass, the napkin, and the treasure, wended his way homewards to his mother, where, after showing real proof of the ass's behind, and sure sight of the napkin, he hired good cooks for himself and lived right royally, and giving all his sisters in marriage, and enriching his mother, made the old saw come true that
'God helpeth madmen and children.'