Third Diversion

Of the First Day

Peruonto goeth to the forest to gather a fagot of wood, and behaveth kindly towards three girls whom he findeth sleeping in the sun, and receiveth from then a charm. The kings daughter mocketh him, and he calleth down a curse upon her that she should he with child of him, which cometh to pass. Knowing that he is the father, the king commandeth that he should be put inside a cask with his wife and little ones, and thrown into the sea: but in virtue of the charm he has received, he freeth himself of the danger, and becoming a handsome youth, is made king.

All were pleased with the recital, and heard with great satisfaction of the happiness of the prince, and of the punishment of the evil women. And now it was Meneca's turn to speak, and the chattering of the others was silenced, and she began recounting the story which followeth:

A good deed is never lost: whoso soweth the seed of kindness meeteth with due reward, and whoso soweth the seed of love gathereth love in return. The favour which is shown to a grateful heart is never barren, and gratitude giveth birth to gifts. Instances of these sayings occur continually in the deeds of mankind: and ye will meet with an example of it in the tale that I am about to relate to you.

A countrywoman of Casoria, Ceccarella hight, had a son named Peruonto, who was the silliest body and the ugliest lump of flesh that nature had ever created; so that the unhappy mother always felt sad at heart, and cursed the day and the hour upon which she had given birth to this good-for-nothing, who was not worth a dog's hide. The unfortunate woman could cry out as much as she liked, but the ass never stirred to do her the lightest service. At last, after screaming herself hoarse, and assailing him with all the epithets she could think of; she induced him to go to the forest and gather a fagot of wood, saying, 'It is nearly time that we should have something to eat. Run for this wood, that I may get ready somewhat: and forget not yourself on the way, but come back at once, that I may cook the needful so as to keep the life in us.'

Peruonto departed, and fared on like a monk among his brethren in a procession. Away he went, stepping as one treading down eggs, with the gait of a jackdaw, counting his paces as he went. At last he reached a certain part of the forest through which ran a streamlet, and near by he espied three young girls lying on the grass, with a stone for a pillow, fast asleep, with the sun pouring his rays straight upon them. When Peruonto saw them like a fountain amid a roaring fire, he took compassion upon them; and with the axe which he carried to cut the wood he severed some branches from the trees, and built a kind of arbour over them. Whilst he was busy so doing the young girls awoke (they were the daughters of a fairy), and perceiving the kindness and goodness of heart of Peruonto, in gratitude they gave him a charm, by which he might possess whatever he knew how to ask for.

Peruonto, having performed this action, continued faring towards the forest, where he cut down a fagot of wood so large that it would require a cart to carry it. Seeing that it would be impossible for him to lift it, he sat upon it, saying, 'Would it not be a fine thing if only this fagot would carry me home?' and behold, the fagot began to trot like a Besignano horse, and arriving before the king's palace, it began to wheel round, and prance, and curves, so that Peruonto cried out aloud, enough to deafen all hearers. The young ladies who attended the king's daughter' Vastolla highs, happening to look out of the window and behold this marvel, hastened to call the princess, who, glancing out and observing the freaks played by the fagot, laughed until she fell backwards, which thing was unusual, and the young ladies were astonished at the sight, as the Lady Vastolla was by nature so melancholy that they never remembered to have seen her smile. Peruonto lifted his head, and perceiving that they made a mock at him' said, 'O Vastolla, mayest thou be with child by me !' and thus saying, tightened his heels on the fagot, which at once moved away, and in an instant arrived home with a train of screaming children behind: and if his mother had not quickly shut the door, they would have slain him with stones.

In the meantime Vastolla, after a feeling of uneasiness, and unrest, and the hindering of the monthly ordinary, perceived that she was with child, and hid as long as possible her plight, until she was round as a cask. The king, discovering her condition, was wroth with exceeding wrath, and fumed, and swore terrible oaths, and convened a meeting of the council, and thus spake to them: 'Ye all know that the moon of mine honour is wearing horns, and ye all know that my daughter hath furnished matter of which to write chronicles, or, even better, to chronicle my shame. Ye all know that to adorn my brow she hath filled her belly: therefore tell me, advise me what I had better do. Methinks I had rather have her slain than have her give birth to a bastard race. I have a mind to let her feel rather the agonies of death than the labour of childbed: I have a mind to let her depart this world ere she bring bad seed into it.' The ministers and advisers, who had made use of more oil than vinegar, answered him, saying, 'Truly deserveth she a great punishment, and of the horns which she forceth on thy brow should the handle be made of the knife that shall slay her: but if we slay her now that she is with child, the villain who hath been the principal cause of thy disgust, and who hath dressed thee horns right and left will escape unhurt: he who, teaching thee the policy of Tiberius, hath put before him a Cornelius Tacitus, and to represent to thee true sleep, hath made thee issue forth from the horn-gate. Let us await, therefore, until it comes to port, and then we are likely to know the root of this dishonour: and afterwards we will think and resolve, with a grain of salt, which course we had best follow.'

The king was pleased with this rede, perceiving in it sound sense, and therefore held his hand, and said, 'Let us await the issue of events.' But as Heaven willed, the time came: and with little labour, at the first sound of the midwife's voice, and the first squeeze of the body, out sprang two men-children like two golden apples. The king, who was full of wrath, sent for his ministers and counsellors, and said to them, 'My daughter hath been brought to bed, and the time hath come for her to die' Answered the old sages (and all to gain time upon time), 'No; we will tarry until the children get older, so as to be able by their favour to recognise their father.' The king, not desiring his counsellors to think him unjust, shrugged his shoulders and took it quietly, and patiently tarried till the children were seven years of age, at which time he again sent for his counsellors, and asked them their rede: and one of them said, 'As thou hast not been able to know from thy daughter who was the false coiner that altered the crown from thy image, it is time that we seek to obliterate the stain. Command thou that a great banquet should be got ready, and ask all the grandees and noblemen of the city, and let us be watchful, and seek with our own eyes him to whom the children incline most by the inclination of nature: for that one without fail will be the father, and we will at once get hold of him like goat's excrement.' The king was pleased with this rede. He gave orders for the banquet, invited all folk of any consequence, and after they had eaten their fill he bade them stand in line and pass before the children: but they took as much notice of them as did Alexander's courser of the rabbits, so that the king became enraged and bit his lips with anger: and although he was not wanting in shoes, because of the tightness of those he was compelled to wear he stamped the ground with the excess of pain; but his advisers said to him, 'Softly, Your Majesty! Hearten your heart. We will give another banquet in a short while, no more inviting the noblest of the land, but instead folk of the lower class, as women are ever wont to attach themselves to the worst: and perchance we will meet with the seed of your wrath amid cutlers, comb-sellers, and other merchants of small wares, as we have not met with him among the noble and well-born.' The king was pleased with this rede, and commanded the second banquet to be got ready, whereto came, by ban invited, all folk from Chiaja, all the rogues, all adventurers and fortune-hunters, all quick-witted, all ruffians, and villains, and apron-wights that were to be found in the city, who, taking seat like unto noblemen at a long table spread with rich abundance, began straightway to load themselves.

Now it so happened that Ceccarella, having heard the ban which invited folk to this banquet, began to urge Peruonto to go to it also, and so much did she say and do that at last she prevailed upon him to depart, and he wells: and he had hardly entered the place of feasting, when the two pretty children ran to him, and embraced him, and received him with great joy, and sported and played with him. The king, beholding this sight, wrenched off all his beard, seeing that the good name of this lottery and this lump of copeta[Note: Giuggiolena, paste condensed with honey, hazel-nuts, and almonds, made in different shapes and figures, and seasoned with comfits.] belonged to a sorcerer, scirpio[Note: Scirpio, fem. scirpia, sour-looking, Lat. scirpus; a woman thin, lurid-looking,bronzed with shaggy hair, a witch.], hideous, and badly made, who sickened the sight so that one could not even gaze upon him without flinching. He was, besides, velvet-headed, owl-eyed, and had a nose like a parrot-beak, a mouth like that of a Lucerna fish, and was all in rags, so that, without reading, thou couldst have an insight into all the secrets; and sighing heavily, the king said, 'Hath ever any one seen anything like this, that that light-o'-brains daughter mine should have it in her head to fall in love with this sea-monster? hath ever any one seen one that could take to the heel of such an hairy foot? Ah, infamous woman, what blind and false metamorphoses are these: to become a strumpet for a pig, so that I should become a ram? But why do I tarry? what am I thinking of? Let them feel the weight of my just chastisement, let them be punished as they deserve, and let them bear the penalty that ye will adjudge: and take them out of my sight, for I cannot endure them.

The ministers all took counsel together, and resolved that the princess and the malefactor, with the two children, should be put into a cask and thrown into the sea, so that they should thus end their days without the king soiling his hands with his own blood. No sooner was the sentence pronounced than the cask was brought, and all four were put therein; but before they were thrown in, some of the handmaidens of Princess Vastolla, who were weeping with bitter weeping, put inside the hogshead raisins and dried figs, so that they could live for a little time. Then the cask was closed, and taken away, and flung into the sea, and it kept sailing on whither the wind blew it. Meanwhile Vastolla, weeping with sore weeping, her eyes running two streamlets of tears, said to Peruonto, 'What great misfortune is ours that our grave should be Bacchus' cradle! Oh, could I but have known who it was that worked in this body to have me thrown into this prison! Alas! I am come to a sad end, without knowing the why or wherefore. O thou cruel one, tell me, tell me, what magic art didst thou use, what wand didst thou hend, to bring me to this pass, to be shut herein by this hogshead's hoops? tell me, tell me, what devil tempted thee to put into me the invisible pipe, and gain nothing by it but the spectacle of a blackened factor?' Pernonto, who had for a time listened and pretended not to hear (making merchant's ear), answered at last, 'If thou wilt know how it came to pass, give me some raisins and figs.' The princess, desiring to draw from him something, gave him a handful of each; and as soon as his desire was satisfied, he began to recount all that had happened to him with the three young girls and then fagot of wood, and how at last he came under her window, and how, when she laughed at him, he wished her to be with child by him: which when the lady Vastolla heard, she heartened her heart, and said to him, 'Brother mine, why should we make exit of life inside this hogshead? Why not wish for this vessel to become a splendid ship, so that we may escape from this peril and arrive in good port?' And Pernonto rejoined, 'Give me figs and raisins, if it be thy desire to know.' And Vastolla at once satisfied his gluttony, so that he should be willing to speak: and like a carnival fisherwoman, with the raisins and figs she fished for the words fresh out of his body. And Pernonto said the words desired by the princess: and at once the cask became a ship, with all the sails ready for sailing, and with all the sailors that were needed for the ship's service; and there were to be seen some lowering the sheets, some hauling the shrouds, some holding the rudder, some setting the studding-sails, some mounting to the upper-main-topsail, one crying, 'Put the ship about!' and another, 'Put the helm up !' and one blowing the trumpet, and others firing the guns, and some doing one thing, and some another, so long as Vastolla remained on board the ship, swimming in a sea of sweetness.

It being now the hour when the moon played with the sun at going and coming, Vastolla said to Peruonto, Handsome youth mine, wish that this ship may become a palace, so that we may be more secure. Thou knowest what is usually said: "Praise the sea, but dwell on shore; and Peruonto answered, 'If it be thy desire that I should say so, give me some figs and raisins' and she at once gave him what he asked, and Pernonto having eaten, wished his wish, and the ship became a beautiful palace, adorned in all points, and furnished with such splendour that nothing was wanting. So that the princess, who would have parted with life easily but a short time before, now would not have exchanged her place with the highest lady in the world, seeing that she was served and entreated as a queen. Then, to put a seal upon her good-fortune, she begged Peruonto to obtain the grace of becoming handsome and polished, so that they could joy together: remarking that, although saith the proverb, 'Better a pig for an husband than an emperor for a friend,' if he could change his looks she would take it as the greatest good-fortune: and Peruonto in the same way answered, 'Give me figs and raisins, if it be thy will that I should thus desire.' And Vastolla at once remedied the costiveness of his words with the raisins and figs, so that as soon as the wish was spoken he became from a sparrow a bullfinch, from a ghul a narcissus, and from an hideous mask a handsome youth. Vastolla, seeing such a transformation, was beside herself with excess of joy, and throwing her arms around him, tasted of the sweet juice of happiness.

Now it so happened that at this same time the king, who from the day on which he had pronounced the cruel sentence had not lifted his eyes from the ground, was entreated to the chase by his courtiers, who bethought themselves thus to cheer him. And he went; and night surprising him, sighting from afar a light from a lanthorn at one of the windows of the palace, he sent one of his followers to see if they would receive him there: and he was answered that he might not only break a glass, but he could also shatter a night vase. So the king accepted the invitation, and mounting the steps, entered: and going from room to room, he could see no person living except the two children, who kept at his side, saying , 'Grandsire! grandsire! grandsire!' The king wondered with greatest wonder, and marvelled with greatest marvel: and being wearied, seated himself by a table, when he beheld spread on it by invisible hands a white cloth and divers dishes of food, of which he partook, and wines of good vintage, of which he drank truly as a king, served by the two pretty children, never ceasing; and whilst he was at meat, a band of calascioni[Note: Calascione (Gr. 'KELUS'), an ancient and famous instrument with gut-strings.] and tambourines discoursed delicious music, touching even the marrow of his bones. When he had done eating, a bed suddenly appeared made of cloth of gold; and having had his boots pulled off, he took his rest, and all his courtiers did the same, after having well supped at an hundred tables, which were ready laid in other rooms.

As soon as morning came, the king got ready to depart, and was going to take with him also the little ones, when Vastolla and her husband appeared, and falling at his feet, asked his pardon, and recounted to him all their fortune. The king, seeing that he had won two nephews that were like two grains of gold and two priceless gems galore, and a son-in-law like a jinn, embraced first one and then the other, and took them with him to the city, and commanded great festivals and rejoicings to be made for this great gain, which lasted many days: solemnly confessing to himself that

'Man proposeth, but God disposeth.'

Il Pentamerone Contents

Publishers' Note

First Day
  1. Story of the Ghul
  2. The Myrtle-Tree
  3. Peruonto
  4. Vardiello
  5. The Flea
  6. The Cat Cinderella
  7. The Merchant
  8. Goat-Face
  9. The Charmed Hind
  10. The Old Woman Discovered
Eclogue--The Crucible

Second Day
  1. Petrosinella
  2. Verde Prato
  3. Viola
  4. Gagliuso
  5. The Serpent
  6. The She-Bear
  7. The Dove
  8. The Young-Slave
  9. The Padlock
  10. The Gossip
Eclogue--The Dye

Third Day
  1. Cannetella
  2. Penta the Handless
  3. The Face
  4. Sapia the Glutton
  5. The Large Crab-louse
  6. The Wood of Garlic
  7. Corvetto
  8. The Ignorant Youth
  9. Rosella
  10. The Three Fairies
Eclogue--The Stove

Fourth Day
  1. The Cock's Stone
  2. The Two Brothers
  3. The Three Anamal Kings
  4. The Seven Pieces of Pork-Skin
  5. The Dragon
  6. The Three Crowns
  7. The Two Cakes
  8. The Seven Pigeons
  9. The Crow
  10. Pride Punished
Eclogue--The Hook

Fifth Day
  1. The Goose
  2. The Months
  3. Pinto-Smauto
  4. The Golden Root
  5. Sun, Moon, and Talia
  6. The Wise Woman
  7. The Five Sons
  8. Nennillo and Nennella
  9. The Three Citrons
  10. End of the Tale of Tales