Second Diversion

Of the Third Day

Penta scorneth to wed her brother, and cutting off her hands, sendeth them to him as a present. He commandeth that she should be put within a chest and thrown into the sea. The tide casteth her upon a sea-shore. A sailor findeth her, and leadeth her to his home, but his wife thrusts her again into the same chest and into the sea. She is found by a king, and he taketh her to wife; but by the wickedness of the same woman, Penta is expelled from that kingdom. After sore troubles and travail she is recovered by her husband and her brother.

Having heard Zeza’s story, the company were of the mind that Cannetella deserved what befell her and more, because she sought for an hair within an egg: yet they felt pleased when they beheld her saved from so much sorrow, and there was matter for reflection in that, knowing how all men were dirt for her, she was reduced to the pass of humbling herself and bowing down before a locksmith, so that he might save her from so much travail. But the prince signed to Cecca to begin her story, and she did not delay in speaking, proceeding thus:

Virtue is tried in the crucible of troubles, and the candle of goodness shineth the more where it is darkest, and fatigue begetteth merit. Who sitteth idle triumpheth not, but whoso turneth the ladle, as did the daughter of the King of Preta-secca, with sweat blood and danger of death, buildeth for himself the house of contentment, like unto the fortunes I am going to relate.

The King of Preta-secca having been bereft of his wife, the evil one entered his head, and suggested that he should take his sister Penta to wife. For this reason, sending for her one day, he met her alone, and said, ‘’Tis not a matter, O my sister, to be done by a man with sound judgment, to let the good which he hath in his own house depart; and besides one knoweth not how it will be, when one alloweth strange people to put their feet in one’s house; therefore having well digested this business, I came to the resolution, and I purpose to take thee to wife, because thou are made of mine own breath, and I know thy nature. Be thou content therefore to be tied in this know, to be set in this setting, to join this partnership, to enter into this unantur acta, this mixture, et fiat potio, and let it be done, as both of us will do a good day’s work.’

Penta, hearing this trust in fifth, stood nearly out of her mind, and her colour came and went, and she could scarce believe here own ears, thinking it impossible that her brother could jump to this height, and try to sell her a pair of rotten eggs when he needed an hundred fresh ones. Remaining silent for a while, thinking how she should answer to such an impertinent question, and out of purpose, at last, unloading the fardel of patience, she said, ‘If thou hast lost thy wits, I will not lose my shame. I am in a transport of surprise at thee, that thou allowest such words to escape thy mouth, which if said in joke befit an ass, and if in earnest stink of lecherousness. I regret that, if thou hast tongue to speak such outrageous language, I have not ears to hearken thereto. I thy wife? Yes ‘tis done for thee: oh, smell thy fill: since when dost thou these foul tricks? this olla podrida? these mixtures? and where are we? in the ice? His sister, O baked-cheese! Ask thy priest to correct thee, and never allow such words to escape thy lips, or else I will do incredible things, and whilst thou esteem me not as a sister, I will not hold thee for what thou art to me.’ And thus saying, she departed, and entering a chamber, locked and bolted the door, and saw not the face of her brother for more than a month, leaving the wretched king, who had listened with an hardened brow, to tire out the shot, scorned as a child who hath broken the juglet, and confounded as a cook-maid when the cat hath stolen the meat.

After some days were past, the king again gave vent to his licentious desires, and she desiring to know what had caused her brother such great longing, and what was in her person that should put such a thought in his head, came forth out of her chamber, and went to him, and said, ‘O my brother, I have admired myself and looked at myself in the mirror, and I cannot find anything in my face which could deserve and inspire such love as thing, as I am not such a sweet morsel to cause folk to pant and long for me.’ And answered the king, ‘Penta mine, thou art beauteous and accomplished from head to foot, but thine hand is the thing which above all others causeth me to faint with excessive desire: that hand is the fork which extracteth from the pot of this breast my heart and entrails: that hand is the book, which lifeth from the cistern of my life the pail of my soul: that hand is the pincers, wherein is held my spirit whilst love is filing it. O hand, O beauteous hand, spoon, which administereth the soup of sweetness: nippers, which nip my longing and desire: shovel, which casteth dust within my heart!’ And he would have said more, but Penta replied, ‘Thou mayest go, I have heard thee; we will meet again;’ and entering her chamber, she sent for a witless slave, and giving him a large knife and an handful of coins, said to him, ‘Ali mine, cut off mine hands, I wish to make them beautiful in secret, and whiter.’ The slave, believing he was doing her pleasure, with two blows cut them off. Then she had them laid in a faenza basin and sent them covered with a silken napkin to her brother, with a message that she hoped he would enjoy what he coveted most, and desiring him good health and twins, she saluted him.

The king, beholding such a deed, was wroth with exceeding wrath, and he waxed furious, and ordered that a chest should be made straightway, well tarred outside, and commanded that his sister should be put therein, and cast into the sea. And this was done, and the chest sailed on battered by the waves until the tide projected it upon a sea-shore, where, found by some sailors who had been casting their nets, it was opened, and therein they beheld Penta, far more beautiful than the moon when it riseth after having spent its lenten time at Taranto. Masiello, who was the chief and the most courageous of those folk, carried her home, bidding Nuccia his wife to entreat her with kindness. But no sooner had her husband gone forth, than she, who was the mother of suspicion and jealousy, put Penta again within the chest, and cast her once more into the sea, where beaten by the waves, and buffeted here and there, it was at last met by a large vessel, on board of which was the King of Terra-Verde. Perceiving this chest floating about, the king instructed the sailors to strike sail and lay to, and ordering the small boat to be lowered, sent some of the sailors to pick up the chest. When they brought it on board, they opened it, and discovered therein the unhappy damsel, and the king, beholding this beauty alive within a coffin for the dead, believed that he had found a great treasure, although his heart wept because the casket of so many gems of love was found without handles. Taking her to his realm, the king gave her as maid of honour to the queen; and she did all possible services to the queen, as sew, thread the needle, starch the collars, and comb the queen’s hair, with her feet, for which reason, no less than for her goodness, youth and beauty, she was held dear as the queen’s own daughter.

Now after a month or so was past, the queen was called to appear before the judgment seat of destiny to pay the debt to nature, and she asked the king to her bed-side, and said to him, ‘But a short while can my soul remain till she looseth the matrimonial knot between herself and the body; therefore hearten thy heart, O my husband, and strengthen thy soul. But if thou lovest me, and desirest that I should go content and consoled and comforted into the next world, thou must grant me a boon." Command, O mine heart,’ said the king, ‘that if I cannot give thee proof whilst in life of my great love, I may give thee a sign of the affection I bear thee even after death.’ Replied the queen, ‘Now listen, as thou hast promised. As soon as mine eyes will be closed in the dust, thou must marry Penta, although we know not who she is, nor whence she came: yet by good breeding and fine bearing is known a steed of good race.’ Answered the king, ‘Live thou an hundred years; but even if thou shouldst say good-night to give me the evil day, I swear to thee that I shall take her to wife, and I care not that she is without hands and short of weight, for of the bad ones one must always take the least.’ But these last words were uttered in an undertone so that his wife should not hear them. And as soon as the candle of the queen’s days was put out, he took Penta to wife; and the first night that he lay with her she conceived. But after a time the king was obliged to sail for the kingdom of Anto-scuoglio, and farewelling Penta, he weighed anchor.

The nine months being over, Penta brought to the light a beauteous man-child, and all the city was illumined and tables spread in honour of the new-born babe, and the ministers and counsellors quickly dispatched a felucca to advise the king of what had taken place. Now the ship met stormy weather on the way, so that one moment it seemed as if she would meet the stars, and another moment that she would plunge into the very bottom of the ocean. At last, by the grace of Heaven, she went ashore in the same place where Penta had been found, and had met with kindness and compassion from the chief of the sailors, and had been cast again into the sea by a woman’s cruelty. As ill-fortune would have it, the same Nuccia was washing the linen of her child at the sea-shore, and curious to know the business of other people, as ‘tis the nature of women, enquired of the felucca’s master whence he came, and whither he was bound, and who had sent him. And the master answered, ‘I come from Terra-Verde, and am going to Anto-scuoglio to find the king of that country, to give him a letter, and for this I have been sent on purpose. I believe ‘tis his wife that hath written to him. But I could not tell thee clearly what is the message.’ Replied Nuccia, ‘And who is the wife of this king?’ and the master rejoined, From what I have heard said, she is a beauteous young dame, and she is bight Penta the Handless, as she bath lost both her hands. And I have heard them saying that she was found within a chest in the midst of the sea, and by her good fortune and destiny she hath become the king’s wife, and I know not why she is writing to him in such haste that I needs must run against time and tide to reach him quickly.’ Hearing these words, that jewess of a Nuccia invited the master to come and drink a glass in her house, and she plied him with liquor till he was dead drunk, and then taking the letter out of his pocket, she called a scribe and bade him read it. All the time the man read, she was dying with envy, and every syllable made her sigh deeply, and at the last she bade the same scribe to falsify the writing, and write to the king that the queen had given birth to a dog, and they awaited his orders to know what they should do with it. After it was written they sealed it, and she put it in the sailor’s pocket, and when he awakened and beheld the weather changed, he weighed anchor, and tacked the ship, and fared with a light wind for Anto-scuoglio. Arriving thereto, he presented the letter to the king, who, after reading it, answered, that they should keep the queen in cheerful spirits, so that she should not be troubled at all, for these things came through Heaven’s commandments, and a good man should not rebel against the stars’ decree.

And the master departed, and in a few days arrived at the same place, where Nuccia met him, and entreating him with exceeding great kindness, and giving him wine of extra good vintage, he fell to the ground intoxicated once more. And he slept heavily, and Nuccia putting her hand in his pocket found the answer; and calling the scribe bade him read it, and again bade him falsify a reply for the ministers and counsellors of Terra-Verde, which was, that they should burn at once mother and son. When the master got over his drinking bout, he departed; and arriving at Terra-Verde, presented the letter to the counsellors, and they opened it. When they had mastered its contents, there was a murmuring and whispering among those old sages; and they conversed at length about this matter, and concluded at last that either the king must be going mad, or that some one had cast a spell upon him, for when he had such a pearl of a wife and a gem of an heir, he ordered to make powder of them for death's teeth. So they took the middle course, and decided to send the queen and her son away from the city, where no news could ever be heard of them

and so, giving her some money so as to keep body and soul together, they sent out of the house a treasure, and from the city a great light, and from the husband the two props uplifting his hopes.

The unhappy Penta, perceiving that they had expelled her, although she was not a dishonest woman, nor related to bandits, nor a fastidious student, taking the child in arms, whom she watered with her tears, and fed with her milk, departed, and fared toward Lago-truvolo where dwelt a magician, and he beholding this beautiful maimed damsel who moved the hearts to compassion, this beauty who made more war with her maimed arms than Briareus with his hundred hands, asked her to relate to him the whole history of her misadventures. And she related to him how her brother, because she would not satisfy his lust of her flesh, sent her to be food for the fishes, and she continued her story up to the day in which she hadset her foot in his kingdom. The magician, hearing this sad tale, wept with ceaseless weeping; and the compassion which entered through the ear-holes issued in sighs from the mouth; at last comforting her with kind words, he said, ‘Keep a good heart, O my daughter, for no matter how rotten is the soul's home, it can be supported with the props of hope; and therefore let not thy spirit go forth, as Heaven sometimes sendeth great trouble and travail, so as to make appear all the greater the marvellous coming of success. Doubt not, therefore, thou hast found father and mother here, and I will help thee with my own blood.’ The sad-hearted Penta thanked him grate-fully, and said, ‘I care not now for aught. Let Heaven rain misfortunes upon my head, and let a storm of ruin come, now that I am under thy shelter I fear naught as thou wilt protect me with thy grace as thou canst and wilt; and I feel like under the spell of childhood..’ And after a thousand words of kindness on one side and thanks on the other, the magician allotted her a splendid apartment in his palace, and bade that she should be entreated as his own daughter.

The next morning he sent for the crier and commanded that a ban should be published, that whosoever would come and relate at his court the greatest misfortune, he would present them with a crown and sceptre of gold, of the worth of a kingdom. And the news of this edict flew to all parts of Europe, and to that court came folk more than broccoli to gain such great riches, and one related that he had served at court all the days of his life, and had found that he had lost the water and the soap, his youth and health, and had been paid with a form of cheese. And another, that he had met with injustice from a superior, which he could not resent; and that he had been obliged to swallow the pill, and could not give vent to his anger. One lamented that he had put all his substance within a vessel, and owing to contrary winds had lost the cooked and the raw. Another complained that he had spent all his years in the exercise of his pen and had had so little fortune, that never had it brought him any gain, and he despaired of himself, seeing that matters of pen and ink were so fortunate in the world, whilst his only failed. Such was their case.

In the meanwhile the King of Terra-Verde had returned to his kingdom ; and finding this fine sirup at home, he became frantic, and acted as a mad unchained lion, and would have slain all the ministers and counsellors, if they had not shown him his own letter, and perceiving that it had been counterfeited, he sent for the ship's master, and bade him relate to him what had occurred in the voyage. And the king keenly divined that Masiello's wife must have worked him this evil; and arming and equipping a galley, he departed and sailed for that coast, and arriving there he sought and found the woman, and with kindly words he drew out from her the whole intrigue, and thus ascertaining that envy and jealousy had been the cause of this great misfortune, he commanded that the woman should be punished : and they well anointed her with wax and tallow, and put her among a heap of wood, setting fire thereto. And the king stood and watched till he beheld that the fire with its red tongues had licked up that wretched woman. He then ordered the sailors to weigh anchor and depart. And whilst sailing amid the sea, his craft was met by a large vessel, and on enquiry being made he found that on board of it was the King of Preta-secca. They exchanged a thousand ceremonious compliments, and the King of Preta-secca informed the King of Terra-Verde that he was sailing towards Lagotruvolo, as the king of that kingdom had published a certain ban, and he was going to tempt his fortune, as he did not yield to any in misfortune, being the most sorrow-stricken man in all the world. Answered the King of Terra-Verde, ‘If ‘tis for such case thou goest, I can surpass thee, or at least equal thee, and I can give fifteen for a dozen, and excel the most unfortunate, whoever he be, and where the others measure their cark and care with a small lantern, I can measure it even to the grave. Therefore I will also come with thee, and let us act as gentlemen, each one of us, and whoso shall win of us two shall divide the winnings with the other, even to a fennel.’ ‘I agree to it,’ answered the King of Preta-secca, and plighting their word between them, they sailed together for Lago-truvolo, where they disembarked, and fared to the royal palace, and presented themselves before the magician. And when he knew who they were, he entreated them with honour as due to kings, and bade them be seated under the dais, and said, ‘Well come, and a thousand times welcome!’ And hearing that they also had come to the trial of wretchedness and unhappiness of men, the magician enquired what great sorrow had subjected them to the south wind of sighs. And the King of Preta-secca first began to tell of his love, and the wrong done to his own flesh and blood, and the honourable deed of a virtuous woman done by his sister, and his own dogheartedness in shutting her up into the chest, and casting her into the sea. And he grieved with exceeding grief as his conscience reproached him of his own error, and his sorrow was great, passing all distress, for the loss of his sister. In one way he was tormented by shame, in the other by the great loss: so that all the cark and care of the most great affliction in others was in him like hell compared to a lantern, and the quintessence of sorrow was as naught, compared with the anguish which gnawed at his heart. Having ended his say, the King of Terra-Verde began to relate, saying, ‘Alas! thy sorrow and trouble are like small lumps of sugar, and cakes, and sweetmeats compared with mine, because that very Penta the Handless of whom thou hast spoken, and whom I found in that chest, like a Venice wax torch to burn at my funeral, I took to wife. And she conceived, and bare me a son of passing beauty, and by the envy and malignity of an hideous witch, both had nearly been slain. But, O sore nail to my heart, O anguish and sore affliction, I can never find peace and rest in this world! They were both expelled from my kingdom: and I have taste for naught, and I know not how under the heavy load of such cark and care, doth not fall the ass of this weary life.’

The magician, having heard both their say, understood at once from the points of their noses that one of them was the brother, and the other the husband, of Penta, and sending for Nufriello the son, said to him, ‘Go and kiss thy sire and lord's feet;’ and the child obeyed the magician, and the father seeing the good breeding and beauty and grace of the little child threw a gold chain round his neck. And this done, the magician said again to the child ; ‘Go and kiss thy uncle's hand, O beauteous boy mine,’ and the child obeyed at once. The uncle marvelling with exceeding marvel at the wit and spirit of the little one, presented him with a valuable gem, and enquired of the magician if he were his son, and he answered that they must enquire of his mother. Penta, who had been hid behind a curtain, and had heard the whole business, now came forth, and like a little dog who, having been lost, and after some days finding his master again, barks, and wags its tail, and bounds, and licks his hand, and gives a thousand signs of its delight: thus it was with her, now going to the brother, and then to her husband, now clasped by the love of the one, and then drawn by the blood's instinct of the other, she embraced first one and then the other, and their delight, and joy, and happiness knew no bounds. Ye must suppose that it was a concert in three of broken words and interrupted sighs; but having ended this music, they then returned to caress the child, first the father, and then the uncle, clasped him, and kissed him, and embraced him. After that from both sides all was said and done, the magician concluded with these words, ‘Heaven knoweth how this heart fluttereth with joy in beholding the happiness of all, and the lady Penta comforted, who for her own good deeds deserveth to be held in the palm of the hand, and by this scheme I tried to draw to this kingdom her husband and her brother, and to one and the other I submit myself their slave; but as man bindeth himself with words, and the ox is bound by the horns, and the promise of a worthy man is his bond, judging that the King of Terra-Verde was in sooth the one most likely to burst with grief, I will maintain my promise to him, and therefore I give him not only the crown and sceptre as hath been published by the ban, but my kingdom also. And as I have neither chick nor child, by your good grace I desire to take as my adopted children this handsome couple, husband and wife, and ye will be dear unto me as the eye-ball of mine eyes; and because there should be naught left for Penta to desire, let her put her maimed limbs between her legs, and she will withdraw them with a pair of hands more beauteous than she had before.’ And this being done, and all happening as the magician had said, the joy was great: they were out of mind with delight. The husband esteemed this the greater good fortune, more than the other kingdom given to him by the magician; and for a few days there were great joyances and feasting, and then the King of Preta-secca returned to his kingdom, and the King of Terra-Verde sent his brother-in-law to his realm, bidding his younger brother take his place, and he and his wife remained with the magician, forgetting in joy and delight the past travail, and taking the world to witness, that

There is naught sweet and dear
Unless one hath been first tried by the bitter.
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

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